30.3.14

Indy Ale House Brewing Co


http://indiealehouse.com/

Recommended to us by two co-workers already, Indy Ale House was on our list for some time.

APPEARANCE
From the outside, the simple narrow sans serif type didn't seem to be too memorable, but the hand-written window signs, stating "craft beer to-go" spoke another language.

NOSE
Once inside, there is a section to the left with a huge chalkboard and wooden planks with beer options written on them - the to-go areas. Straight ahead is a large widow to give us a sneak peak of this craft brewery's massive kettles and kegs.
We were welcomed by the barbecue aroma of pulled pork and we were seated in no time. The interior was accented by of different wood elements (floor, booths, bar, tables, etc) but it didn't seem inconsistent as the list of beer line-ups on wooden planks united the randomness. The room was surrounded by a brick wall, with some clean white areas. A few other memorable details were - the metallic ceiling, the stylish wooden beer taps, as well as numerous chalkboards everywhere.

SWIRL
We started with a tester flight. We had two varieties in mind, which we want to try. The rest, our waiter took the liberty to surprise us with - a great offer to help with the overwhelming amount of beer choices.
The menu was printed on a simple, white cardboard - nothing fancy nor memorable. Their beers were not described, nor listed anywhere but on the numerous planks gatherings on the walls, which sure were impressive.
We couldn't resist and ordered their popcorn.. it sounded delightful. We were very close to also getting their Cheese Board, but decided to save it for another time. We also got the Wild Mushroom & Kale Pizza and their Short Rib "Royale" Burger.

PALATE
Our flight of testers came on a long wooden plank with holes for the small glasses. There were a lot of interesting flavors, quite the variety pack our server put together. The glasses were in one long line, so keeping the little note with which one is what was easy to figure out (at least until half-way through our meal). I must note, we both enjoyed Witner and Barnyard a lot.
Enwrapped in the ambiance and choices, we accidentally agreed on having all of these dishes arrive at once. Oops!
Our popcorn came in a little metal bucket. It was doused with a not-so-healthy amount of graded cheddar, rosemary and drizzles of garlic butter. Quite the heavy appetizer, but very flavorful! The Short Rib "Royale" Burger was very meaty. It had mayo dressing, melted gruyere and crispy onion chunks. We had the choice of a salad or fries. I was not too happy about cheri's choice of salad, but I thanked him later - that refreshing arugula side was needed. Lastly we enjoyed their Wild Mushroom & Kale Pizza. It had two types of mushrooms - quite generous on them, unlike the light layer of fior di latte and the few goat cheese chunks. It also had tender caramelized onion, the promised kale and it came drizzled with truffle oil - a great hint.

FINISH
We really enjoyed indulging in the intense dishes, flavorful beers and warm atmosphere.

Indie Ale House Brewing Co. on Urbanspoon

Crêpe Café, Keswick


http://crepecafekeswick.blogspot.ca/

SHORT & SWEET

We noticed Crêpe Café in Keswick absolutely randomly, but it is quite a find. If you enjoy crepes, owner-operated restaurants and reasonable prices - this place should be on your list for the Georgina region.

The menu is fairly basic - you have your regular choices of Breakfast, Sweet, Savory Crepes and a couple of waffles. Everything is well under $10 (lots of items at $4.95 actually). We have tried quite a few of them. We are big fans of the breakfast ones - as they come with a full omelet and creamy, herby, mustard based sauce on top. The real kicker is to chat up the owner while he prepares you a custom crepe! Let your imagination go wild, he will complement the crepe with a healthy dosage of stories about his world travels (China, Russia and Canada’s North were the ones we heard).

They also have a decent choice of teas to choose from.

The café’s has tried to do a few interesting areas to the interior, which we were happy to see. Overall, the place is clean and the chairs are comfortable, and did we mention - free WiFi?!

23.3.14

J. Dee's Market Grill

We ended up in London, ON for one day and decided to check out the local food joints. Our original choice was The Early Bird diner, but there was a 20 minute wait to get in. Luckily, there was another traditional diner just a few meters away. And there was no line.

APPEARANCE
A casual written, fluorescent red wordmark on a blue background is prominant from both sides of the street. J. Dee's is definitely in the corner to see and be seen - covered in large window walls, this restaurant is right across the local market place and the stadium.

NOSE
Old Ontario car plates above the ceiling, vintage wood carved signs and vinyl covers lining the walls. This place felt like it was transplanted from south of the border. Despite a game in the nearby Budweiser Gardens arena and busier than average lunch shift, the staff was very pleasant. We got a large table for five with no wait.
Other interior decorations included mock road signs pointing in fictional directions (Kilkenny avenue anyone?) and an occasional brick wall patch. The hardwood floors were worn in high traffic areas and tables are of a vintage variety, but this only added to the overall diner charm.

SWIRL
A simple yet functional menu had an array of options presented to us. The inclination was towards burgers - there was a whole page dedicated to patties between buns. There were a lot of exotic options to choose from, but we went with something more traditional. A turkey burger and stuffed potatoes were pure choices.
Our glasses were filled with water promptly and the sun was shining through the large window. There was a wall of vintage, classic albums to distract us - numerous The Beatles albums, Pink Floyd and Ozzy, to make a few. What else to wish for..?

PALATE
Well, maybe for more pickles on on the burger when it arrived. In all fairness, we should have asked for more, but neglected to do so eager to sink our teeth in food. The burger was very juicy which is quite an achivment for a generally dry turkey meat(not as dry as chicken, but still). It went very well with some Mill Street Organic. We were actually quite surprised not to see local beers displayed more prominently. Barrie's Flying Monkeys had its own standee outside and folks were enjoying Mill Street at the table across from us. No locals as far as we could notice. As far as our second meal went, the stuffed potations were less than impressive. Even through they were loaded with tomato sauce, bacon cheese, and a side of paprika, the lack of taste and general dryness was rather unexpected.

FINISH
At any rate, we enjoyed the place. It could benefit from more emphasis on local beers and already had an impressive list of burger options to choose from. Most options are under $15 which makes it a fairly priced establishment. We left Jdee's Grill happy, the sun was shining outside and it looked like our late Ontario spring was just around the corner. Talking about warm weather, we did not notice a patio. Burgers and beer are even better enjoyed outside!

J. Dee's Market Grill on Urbanspoon

9.3.14

Peller Estates

www.peller.com

Peller was long recommend to us and so Cheri and I finally made it here on a sunny Sunday afternoon on our anniversary day. An enjoyable part of our experience was the drive through the Niagara Escarpment countryside.

APPEARANCE
The winery is a bit hidden off the main road, however the dominating main entrance is had hard to miss. Once inside, we were welcomed by a living room hall set with a fireplace and a grand piano to to the side. The hostesses greeted us and navigated us away from the tasting room, to the restaurant near the back.

NOSE
The restaurant is entered by an arched stone passage, leading to the sunlit dining room. The soothing hues of warm-brown and muted pink worked beautifully with the golden details.
We took our time choosing with which menu to go with. Both brunch and lunch menus were available - chef options and a la carte.
We had to honor the Jason Parsons' work for both menus, and the suggested wine options. The brunch menu was pretty set in its options, while the lunch one we went with surprise courses. While making our choice, we enjoyed an array of interesting breads with butter.

SWIRL
Next, we were surprised by a chefs compliment - a fried pork wonton with ginger mustard, a refreshingly spicy start.
Our wines made their way. The 2012 Muskat had a slight rose, peach-pear nose, it was light in body and after taste. The 2012 Sauvignon Blanc was citrusy, slightly smoky with tones of bitter fruit, but overall well balanced. These glasses made us appreciate having wine as a side of any meal - so easy going, it's hard not to feel fresh.

PALATE
These wines were great matches for our dishes. The Tuna Tartare came with an interesting spicy, zest sauce. It had diced pickles, and was topped with sprouts. Most importantly, it came with a side of a warm brioche, which had layers of eggy sweetness.
The other, surprise, dish was a Trout on a few crackers with light creme fraiche. Underneath was a type of a salad, including celery, beets, radicchio, etc. It had a very unique sauce I couldn't get myself to enjoy - slightly spicy, transparently, with a light farm odor.

We lingered and enjoyed the atmosphere. The music was light and jazzy, the tables were still bathing in sunshine.

The champagne style, Cuvée was next - a Pinot Noir and Chardonnay mix. A portion of wine was removed in the process and replaced with a late harvest Vidal giving the drink a unique sweet touch. Refreshing, bubbly, sweetness followed by sour, it was an intriguing wine overall. Our other wine was a 2012 reserve Riesling - hint of mineral, dryness, and light aftertaste, made this wine very friendly for any food match. The matches chosen were a Scallop Benedict and Butternut Squash soup. The seafood bennie came on a crumbly, buttery bread, topped with peameal bacon, and frothy, hollandaise sauce. Garnished by fresh bean sprouts and, of course, a tender piece of scallop. This dish was so well put together, that Cheri (the seafood adversary) was able to enjoy it.

The butternut squash soup, with hints of ginger and caramelized onion, was assembled in from of us. And island of garnishes in the middle of a bowl, were soon swimming in the creamy butternut squash soup - art came together in front of us.

Next was a surprising, simple, palate cleanser. Shaved ice, topped with a syrupy dashes of Ice Wine Cuvée with spice vanilla reduction. 

The heavier red wines made their way to us. The 2011 Meritage was one of them - complex and full bodied, it was great. Our dishes were Strip Loin and Rib Eye steak. The strip loin (a type of fillet minion) was impressive - juicy and tender. It had a caramelized crust, while all the juices inside were beautifully preserved - cooked medium-rare. It came with a side of peppers and zucchini on quinoa. A great dish. I found the rib eye steak a weak competitor, as the meat was much more stiff and dry. The side of chickpea, lentils, sun-dried tomatoes, sprouts, etc only enhanced my lack of enthusiasm. I was sure glad Cheri didn't mind it. 

We took nice breaks between each course as the new wine matches arrived to set our palates and we enjoyed each other's company.

FINISH
So, it was time for dessert. For the surprise dish, I asked to get their cheese board. Our sweet waitress agreed and presented us with a board of Québecois cheeses, picked by the chef. They included: smoked Gouda with a side of sweet Dijon, blue cheese with fresh sun-dried tomatoes, and a dry Hercules with a side of pistachios. This is definitely my favorite kind of dessert, paired with a Late Harvest Vidal 2012 - sweet yet with a strong structure and body to live up to those cheeses. This was also the match for out the second dish - an Apple Cranberry Crumble - with the smell of cinnamon, and the smoothness of custard - we quite enjoyed it.

Cheri and I got so en-wrapped in this experience - the shining ambiance, warm colors and serene view - we ended up having a 3hr a-la-French lunch. It was a pleasure trip for all our senses - worth every minute!

20.2.14

Rosewater

http://www.rosewaterroom.com

This Thursday Rosewater had a bar night. Our host was very kind to call us in the morning and warn us of the potentially “excessive noise” we may experience. So we moved our reservation to 7:30 as the bar deal was meant to expire at 8. It was still very noisy.

APPEARANCE
As we entered a historical neo-renaissance Consumers Gas Building with real gas burning lights
outside, we faced a crowd of fifty or so. They were very cheerful and clearly enjoying the bar deal going on (while listening to Top 20 music). Our goal for the evening was a dinner, so we had to plow ourselves through. Surprisingly (or not, considering the warning we were given), there was almost nobody in the dining area. At that point, we had time to look around and assess the environment. The hall was grandiose - hardwood floor, tall ceiling, glass mezzanine, wooden framed windows topped off with lights. The modern furniture was very contrasting in style and feel, quite frankly, we thought it clashes with the historic elements: a towering wine rack in the middle, as well as abnormally tall sofa seats to the sides blocking part of the window; empty, dull walls apart from the two opposing ones which were decorated with an oversized Japanese-inspired paintings depicting birds and trees. We noticed the absence of tablecloth which Cheri thought downplayed the upscale feel of Rosewater. The combination of the carrying noise from the bar area, the plain walls, the vintage elements and dull lighting created an unwelcome association in our minds - that of a train station cafeteria.

NOSE
Sergio, our waiter, was definitely a bright spot in all of this. He was attentive and forthcoming - answering our questions about the place and the menu. We settled our food choices with a recommended Tuna Tartare and an intriguing Lobster Ravioli. We also asked for their cast Iron Pan Fried Salmon with risotto. We decided to share each of these dishes. Unfortunately, Rosewater did not have a wine sommelier that evening, but Sergio tried to navigate us through the wine list - with his Italian favorites.

SWIRL
A basket of unique breads and whipped butter made its way to our table. As we enjoyed it in the dull, warm light, we lingered through the various alcohol options and their wide range of prices. Next our wine glasses made their way - a Valpolicella '10 from Veneto and an Ontarian Pinot Grigio '11. We couldn't help but notice how this top 20 music can be nicely replaced with a live jazz band, a worthwhile addition to enhance the ambiance.

PALATE
Considering Rosewater was not overly busy, the food made its way to us in about fifteen minutes. The presentation was impeccable for our Tuna Tartare!  It came on rectangular plate arranged with squiggles of hot sauce and a side of root crisps. The deep dish with Lobster Ravioli was saucy, as the ravioli swam in a shallow broth, but the truffle-lobster smell was mouth-watering. The ravioli were lobster stuffed and cooked to perfection. In the broth around, there was sweet corn, delicious chunks of smoked bacon, some confit potatoes and chives as a garnish. There were also slices of onion in the mix adding to the truffle butter aroma.
The Tuna Tartare had caramelized dried shallot chunks, avocado and a spicy soy dressing. The thin crisp roots were a great way to eat this paste-like tartar avocado salad. As for the raw tuna - tender, fresh and definitely of high quality. While the crispy white Grigio was an equal, close match for the tuna, the ravioli was definitely well enjoyed with the more full bodied, opinionated Valpolicella.
As we were expecting the salmon, we asked for a local Pino Noir from Inneskillin. It was nice having a 5 minute break between these appetizers and the main dish. The wine arrived just in time to join our dish. The generous chunk of salmon was rested on a bed of beat and wild rice risotto (looking exotically purple) and grilled asparagus. It came topped with delicate corn spouts adding interesting notes, and basil leaves adding a refreshing taste. Being seared in a cast iron skillet, the salmon had a crispier cooked outer layer. The dish was surrounded by a lemon buttery sauce, while the salmon had a light line of pesto across the middle. It was definitely one of the most delicious main courses we tried in a long time - the risotto and asparagus gave delicious support flavors to the fish. The generous size of our portion made us glad we did not order two full course meals. We were barely able to finish what we had.

FINISH
Overall, the great food is definitely worth celebrating and coming here. A multitude of famous people seem to agree. Rosewater is spectacularly popular with the world renowned celebrities visiting Toronto. A wall downstairs are covered with autographed photos.
We wandering around the old building after concluding our meal. We spotted a waterfall at the staircase, an intricate cellar and a few private dining areas. We found elements of the old interior which gave this building an interesting older spirit.

Rosewater on Urbanspoon