Search This Blog

The Week in Yum Oct 25-31 Korean Village, Caffe Artigiano, Ace's Place and Maison Le Grand

The Korean Village Restaurant

We made a last minute decision to go out to eat at around 7:45pm on Saturday so we were not surprised to find a lineup at the Korean Village Restaurant in Koreatown on Bloor. This place was my very first introduction to Korean Food almost 30 years ago (it's been around for 35 years, opening in 1978) and it's still a restaurant that I want to return to, even if there have been a zillion Korean restaurants that have opened since then.

That said, we almost never go out for Korean and I hadn't been here since The Kid was small and we would come for lunch when we were in the neighbourhood.

We joined the queue and waited for our turn to be seated. The only male waiter, who may or may not be the son of the infamous owner, reputed to be a former movie star and still quite glamorous as she quietly lords over the front desk, kept looking nervously in our direction. We were actually quite happy to wait our turn since it was 9pm on a busy Saturday evening but he kept making eye contact and apologetic gestures. Finally he walked over and gave us a coupon, said "this is for a free order of dumplings, I apologize for the wait" and scurried off. There was no need to do this as the wait was much shorter than it would have been at 100 hipster restaurants where we would be ignored forever and a day.
banchan - picked things, spicy pickled things to share

Once we were seated, a waitress came to take our order within a minute of sitting down, which is certainly prompt service but with a bible like menu, we weren't even close to making any decisions. Eventually, we all decided on some food and worked around the language barrier and settled in, again expecting a long wait since the place was jam packed. Nope. Food started coming almost immediately, starting with the array of banchan which are kind of like the Korean version of tapas. These are placed in the centre of the table to be shared.
from upper left: Duk Bok Ki, Jap Chae, Short Rib, BiBimBap

Our complimentary dumplings arrived next, followed by the rest of our food. We shared some Jap Chae ($9.99) and Duk Bok Ki ($10.99), which are almost like a rice gnocchi in a spicy red sauce from the appetizer menu. The Short Rib app,  which our male waiter assured us were marinated for two days, were so delicious that we ended up fighting over them so I guess I know what we were going to splurge on when we go again. Shack got himself a BiBimBap Stone Bowl with Bulgogi ($15.99) but by that time we were full and he couldn't finish and he brought it home with him. Let me just say that it makes a fine breakfast with a freshly fried, runny egg plopped on top.

This may no longer be the very best Korean Food in the city anymore but the service is fantastic, the food is very good, it's packed all the time and I still love the place. If you really want to have fun, order the BBQ  dinner and they will plop a portable grill at the table and an array of marinated meats and/or seafood and you grill it yourself. We wanted to taste a bunch of different stuff this time but we will most definately try that with the short ribs.

All in all, a fun place to come with friends (not really the place for a romantic date although they do seem to have a bunch of private little cubbies scattered around), good food, attentive service and a wall of celebrity photos that span three decades with the glamorous owner who never seems to age smiling out at you while you wait for your table.

Korean Village Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Ace's Place Bar Grill Hub

On Sunday we met up with friends who live way out in the Guild area of the city for dinner at their new, favourite neighbourhood haunt, Ace's. It's a bit hard to find since it's hidden behind a block of businesses in a strip mall beside a grocery store and we would have NEVER found it if we hadn't been told exactly where it is. That said, we were lucky to even get a table so the terrible location must not be hurting them at all.

Our friends are clearly regulars because our server immediately brought their toddler some crayons and a colouring book was very friendly and chatty with them, which was nice. After ordering a round of drinks, we were all decided on what we wanted to eat. The Kid and I got fish and chips, which I almost never get but I had read a couple of reviews extolling the virtues of that particular dish. Jen got the beef dip with onion rings ($14.99), Shack got a the 8oz striploin ($23.99) and we all shared 2 lbs of wings with fries ($18- $10.99 for 1 lb and a very reasonable $6.99 for the second lb) and Ace's Poutine just because we had to try it. This comes as a big mess of hand cut fries, herbs, charred jalapenos, white cheddar curds, tomato confit and chorizo for $10.99 and let me tell you, it is a big, ol' sloppy mess of gooey, fatty deliciousness. The only one who didn't like it was The Kid, who thought it smelled like feet. Take that under advisement. The basket went back empty.

The fish and chips (i got mine with crispy sweet potato fries) was crispy, lightly battered and a good size which all you can ask of a piece of deep fried fish and everyone else appeared to enjoy their food just as much. 
The same kid polished off a generous sized chocolate lava cake ($5.99) and since I am stealth, I managed a bite before it disappeared and it was certainly rich and chocolatey.

If I lived in the bowels of eastern Scarborough, this would be my home away from home.

Ace's Place Bar Grill Hub on Urbanspoon

Caffee Artigiano

The wildly popular Caffe Artigiano has finally landed in Toronto, with 11 shops in Vancouver and 4 in Calgary already, taking over a former luggage store's space on Yonge, just south of King. It's huge, with tons of seating and is all set to take on the competition.

 When they offered me a sandwich to try, I was actually going to pass until I saw that they had a roasted lamb sandwich($8.49), which is something you don't see often enough so I split one of those with my lovely host, Tiffany. I am happy to report that it was chock full of thinly sliced lamb, roasted red peppers on buttery toasted bread. I would return just for the sandwich although the bites of scone from Liberty Village's Circles and Squares Bakery were fresh and delicious too. My cappuccino ($3.32) was nice, all of the sandwiches and salads are freshly made in house and everything I tried was very good. They are going to be directly competing with the Starbucks at the corner and I think they will give them a run for their money with the morning coffee/lunchtime crowd.

I was comped my food and coffee but, as always, my opinions are very much my own.

Caffe Artigiano on Urbanspoon

Maison Le Grand

Last, but not least, I was invited to a tasting of sauces from Maison Le Grand. You may have spied these in the refrigerated section at Loblaws, although they are also available at Pusateri's, Highland Farms and Whole Foods. You may be thinking "why would she want to even go try a ready made sauce when she is such a nut about home made everything?"

You forget that I love condiments and sauces of all shapes and sizes and I have heard nothing but great things about this stuff, so I accepted.

This Quebec based,  family run company was founded by Bernard Le Grand, former musician and his partner, Tatiana Bossy after the realization that his vegetarian sandwich delivery enterprise was no longer enough to support their growing family. Tatiana joined him to grow the business into what is now Maison Le Grand, maker of all natural, small batch sauces, dips and coming soon will be a line of soups.

They make all of their products weekly, by hand and ship out in small cases of six to retailers. Before opening, the Basil pestos have a shelf life of 3 months, the tomato pesto 5 months and the rose sauce is good for 6 months in the fridge. After opening, the pestos will be good for a couple of weeks although they won't last that long, trust me. 

Maison Le Grand has teamed up with the ladies at Bite Me More to come up with recipes using their products. Sisters, Julie Albert and Lisa Gnat,  hosted us in their beautiful Bite Me More kitchen where Lisa (the chef) fed us three treats made using different Le Grand products. 

We had a crostini using a smear of the sun dried tomato pesto, a tomato soup with grilled cheese croutons made with the 4 nut and cheese pesto and a round of baked polenta topped with rosee sauce and caramelized onion. 
The sisters LOVE to throw theme parties and the place is packed with chotchkes, a pez dispenser collection, cheeky food photography and more. Julie (the writer) and I share an obsession with teeny, tiny miniatures of everything and I couldn't stop touching all of her amazing little things. 

would you look at that tiny hose and those little rain boots????

a fun display of all of the ingredients featured in the pestos and sauces we were about to try
 I was told to bring a guest, so, instead of bringing another food blogger, I dragged along my friend and makeup colleague, Alice Kilpatrick because she is a busy, working mother who loves to cook but doesn't always have time to cook from scratch but she prefers to use fresh, whole foods. I would let her try these products and see if what she thought. She loved everything about them from the packaging to the fact that they are all natural to the fresh, homemade taste. In fact, she used the rosee sauce that came in her gift bag that evening to make her family dinner and gave it two thumbs up.

there must be 400 hundred pez dispensers along this shelf.....GAH
 I have to say, it all tastes like it was homemade and if you served any of these pestos or sauces to me and told me you made them yourself, I would absolutely believe you. I have three pestos and the rosee sauce in my fridge, waiting for me to come up some recipes and when I do, I will share them with you but honestly, they are great straight up, right out of the package. If you want some inspiration, there are a bunch of recipes on Le Grand's web site.

They recently switched from glass to these cool, recyclable soft pouches which are not only lighter, but in the case of the pestos, they have a screw on little lid so that hardly any air gets into the container, allowing the pestos to have a much longer shelf life than jarred sauce. At $6.99 for the pestos and $5.99 for the rosee sauce (that's the Loblaws price anyway - look for it at Pusateri's or Loblaws at your own risk) I think it's priced fairly. I don't know that I could make 200g of pesto for less than $7 in the first place.

If you care about such things, everything but the Tzatziki and the Four Nut Pesto are vegan as well. I was gifted a bunch of sauces and a pesto to try out, as well as a Bite Me More cookbook, which I can't wait to dive in to for a peruse so stay tuned for a recipe or two using one or two of them.
I don't generally use a ton of "processed" foods unless they are something I really think are worthy and although I do prefer to make as much of my food from scratch as humanly possible, I know that sometimes that can't happen and when that time comes, I like to know that there are healthy, tasty options out there for me to use. 

Alice and I give a sauce four thumbs up to Maison Le Grand and a big thank you to our gracious hosts, the Bite Me More chicks.

Thursday I baked a Halloween Cake to raffle off at the Magical Unicorn Montessori School's Halloween Party, which The Kid and I also attended, much to our delight.

Halloween proper is tonight and I no longer have a little one to dress up and nobody comes to my house to trick or treat because we are the lone residence on a busy street surrounded by a community centre, fire station and nursing home. This makes me sad but worry not, I will fill my Starbucks container with some nice red wine and walk around the neighbourhood, admiring all of the little ghosts and goblins squealing around the hood. 

Facebook share of the week: I am getting soooo excited about our impending 99% sure trip to Jordon this month

Post by The Yum Yum Factor.

Tweet of the week:

Featured Post

Lobster Fondue Mac with Crispy Bacon and A Giveaway from duBreton

I don't trust people who don't love bacon. Even my friends who don't eat meat will admit that the smell of frying bacon is ...