Summerlicious 2014 – Bodega French Restaurant

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Going to Bodega is kind of my own personal signal that summer has officially started.  For the past four years Bodega French Restaurant the first stop on my Summerlicious itinerary.   So why is Bodega my favourite?  Well, there’s a few things.

First, it’s in Baldwin Village on the very quiet and quaint Beverly St.  This wonderful little enclave of restaurants north of Dundas feels like a getaway from the usual downtown core. The interior of Bodega is cosy and is the popular spot for couples, but as I dine alone quite a bit, the patio is a great place for single dining and people watching.

Second, Bodega’s Summerlicious menu is one of the best values on the list of restaurants.  For an extra $3.00 to the Summerlicious $20.00 lunch menu you can get a glass of house wine.  An option I always take. The multigrain bread is homemade and served to you slightly warm, a great start with my glass of white. Rabbit terrine is a regular feature of the Summerlicious menu and a choice I look forward to every year.

The crispy skinned duck leg confit is savoury and tender.  The grilled Stealhead is a rustic dish of trout atop a bed of quinoa topped with mustard sauce. Third, the service is very attentive.  A very hard-working efficient wait staff make sure thatBodega Patio3 water glasses are refilled, orders arrive at the same time and are hot and well-timed.

I whiled away the afternoon with my wine watching the lunch crowd slowly leave.  I am firm believer that there’s always time in your life for traditional French food, don’t you? Enjoy the Summerlicious 2014 opportunity to try the menu because there are only a few days left.

http://www.bodegarestaurant.com/

 

 

 

 

Pavillion Pastries Cafe

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One of the advantages of being a professional pedestrian and public transit user in Toronto is that you come across some wonderful small businesses with a lot to offer. Pavillion Pastries Cafe is a thriving little coffee shop steps from the Main Street subway at Danforth.

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Opened about three years ago in a small unused retail space that was formerly a doctor’s office, its main window shows off a freshly baked choice of Greek pies and specialities.  John Kodothodoros whose family owns Pavillion Pastries Cafe is a great host. Funny, congenial, he and his staff greet the regulars by name.  A welcoming little café that offers organic coffee, light meals and free WIFI is an oasis at this busy East End Toronto intersection.

Specializing in traditional spanokapita (Feta & cheese) and tiropita (cheese) pies which are baked on the premises, they also offer a good selection of cookies including kouriabedes, Greek shortbread cookies in dusted with powdered sugar.

All your traditional types of Greek sweets like baklava are available.  They have my favourite, the very difficult to pronouce, galatoboureko – a semolina custard sandwiched between layers of phyllo and drizzled with honey syrup is available as well.  Two dollars will get you six loukoumades – deep-fried pastry balls soaked in a honey syrup, sprinkled with cinnamon and lightly with powdered sugar.  Sweet and snack sized, these little gems are great when you need a hit of deep-fried goodness.  It’s hard for me not to stop in daily to buy some on my way to and from Main Subway station.  Usually, however, I just stick to getting a big cup of their fine coffee.

Sometimes it’s an adventure to get on the transit line and go to a destination coffee shop, I do it sometimes.  If you’re in the East End of the city and are looking for something different and better than your double-double coffee chain coffee, try Pavillion Pastries Cafe, John will be happy to get to know you and that you came in.

Pavillion display

Address:

  • 2554 Danforth Avenue Toronto, ON M4C 1L4

    The Danforth

  • Phone number(416) 901-3001

 

Deli comfort food – Reuben’s Montreal

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reuben-sIt was a very rainy night a few weeks back in Montreal.  After a long day of moving my daughter out of her university residence, we’d walked from Pine Avenue trying to figure out where to go for dinner.

We were tired and getting wetter and colder when there in the next block we spotted Reubens, a long time favourite of ours.

Walking into the restaurant, you are greeted with the  traditional deli display of enormous slices of cheesecake, carrot cake and Black Forest cake. The back wall features a bright and cheerful mural over a space that can accommodate a group dinner.

Although it is considered a steakhouse, the atmosphere is casual and unrushed.IMG_7958

My eyes continue to grow big from hunger and reviewing the menu is worth considering.  The standard too many pages of items – that is, smoked meat done more ways than you can count, in pizza, salads and massive sandwiches and of course a wide choice of steaks.

Given the level of our hunger, we order items that we know have a quick turnaround from the kitchen.  I have the Famous Super Sandwich, 10 ounces of smoked meat piled high with a kosher pickle and fries.  My daughter orders the Classic Cheese burger and we share a slice of Red Velvet cake.

The wait staff is attentive, orders are taken quickly and food arrives hot without a long wait.

It’s about 8:30 p.m and it’s the time Montrealers start to get out to eat.  As my blood sugar starts to get back to normal and I dry off from the rain, the warm atmosphere of the deli is a comforting reminder of my simple student life in the city. The restaurant is now getting full as we leave.  The staff goes to the door to show you out and wishes you a good night.

A stop well worth making if you’re on Ste. Catharine street and don’t know where to go. Good deli food done the Montreal way.  Happy Eating!

 

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Me.n.u Toronto’s Newest Food Truck

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Saturday night, June 14 a hungry crowd starts to line up at the north corner of University and Queen for the much-anticipated launch of the Me.n.u (pronounced Me & U – get it?) food truck.
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Started by two friends from Thornhill, Ont., Allen and Bryan invested a few years of their life travelling and researching to make sure they had the skills to fuel their passion for food.  The Me.n.u truck’s Asian Fusion street food is an exciting addition to the Toronto food truck scene.  The high spirited team and emcee Joe outside the truck, kept the energy going and made things interesting and entertaining throughout the evening.  He and the team made sure orders were complete, filled quickly and that everyone was happy and satisfied.

Joe Emcee Menu

Saturday’s launch menu included their signature Rice Balls available in Porkilla, Angry Birds and 1Up (Veg) – very filling and reasonable at 2 for $6.00.  Also featured were -

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IMG_8054some creative mashups of traditional and popular street fare, including the Smokin’ Peking Duck poutine – fries with gravy, shredded duck, crispy duck skin, topped with just a touch of cheese and green onion.  Let me just say, there were no fries left unaccounted for when I was done with this dish.

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The roti taco was filled with satay chicken, spicy mayo (I think) and fresh veg. The roti as soft taco shell is light flaky container for the filling.  A pulled beef brisket version is also on the menu.

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Some good vibes playing and happy faces chowing down on some of the best Asian fusion street food in the city.  So, 1 order of Smokin’ Peking Duck poutine, one roti taco and two rice balls and a bottle of water for a total of $20.00 was tasty, filling and great value for two.

IMG_1294Congrats to the  happy and  hard-working crew inside the truck, including Allen and Bryan.  Look for them at the around the city and at the usual food truck outposts and make sure you get in line – it’s well worth the short wait.  Want to learn more about them, visit their website http://menutdot.com/welcome/ 

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The Great Canadian Wine Match: BBQ Edition

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In May 2013, we launched the first People’s Choice Wine Awards with The Great Canadian Wine Match. Thousands of wine lovers from coast to coast (and around the planet) voted for their favourite Canadian wines online and via social the-great-canadian-wine-match-2013-lomedia.

This friendly (and increasingly social ;) competition brought wine drinkers and wine makers together to celebrate the best of what we produce in this country, and garnered considerable media recognition for both nominees and winners.

We’re building on that success this year with The Great Canadian Wine Match: The BBQ Edition, pairing Canadian wines with your favourite grilled or barbecued foods, including grilled chicken, pork, seafood, beef, vegetables and dessert. Get ready now for your Canada Day barbecue!

National Television Finals

This year nominations and voting for nominees will be done like last year, and open to anyone. The regional finalists in each food category will be judged blindly by wine lovers. The winners will then be announced on CTV’s Canada AM.

We’ve Got Prizes!

We’re also turning up the heat this year with prizes, including a Grand Prize of a Summit Series Weber Grill valued at $3,200, awarded by random draw of the 36 finalists. There will also be 25 runner-up prizes of Weber Grill cookbooks and BBQ utensils open to everyone who participates, and chosen by random draw.

What else is different this year?

There are six regional categories this year rather than just four: Western Canada, Niagara, Southwestern Ontario, Prince Edward County, Quebec and Atlantic Canada.

How do I nominate a wine?

Go to the nomination wall for one of the six Canadian food categories: grilled chicken, pork, seafood, beef, vegetables and dessert. Simply enter the name or product code of the wine. You can find product codes here. Once your nominated wine has been approved, you’ll receive an e-mail and can start voting right away.

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Who can nominate wines?

This is the people’s choice awards for wine, so you don’t have to be a wine expert to participate. As the people’s choice awards for Canadian wines, the competition takes a grassroots, “bottoms up” approach to get us rallying behind our favourite bottles from coast to coast.

You can nominate a wine from any province or region, and not just the one in which you live. Although the focus is on Canadian wines, you don’t have to be a Canadian resident to take part, as there are people around the world who love Canadian wines.

Which wines can be nominated?

The Great Canadian Wine Match is open to all wines made from 100% Canadian fruit that are vinified and bottled in Canada by a commercial winery. The wines must be available for sale to the public via at least one of the following outlets: retail stores, online, consignment, direct mail order and/or the winery in at least one Canadian province or territory between May 1, 2014 and May 1, 2015.

There are no restrictions on price, vintage, bottle size or style: red, white, rosé, sparkling, late harvest, dessert/icewine and fortified wines may be nominated.

Fruit wines and ciders are also eligible. These are wines made from fruit other than grapes such as apples, blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, cassis, etc.

Why should I nominate a wine?

Share your passion for Canadian wines with others by becoming a champion for one or more wines. Have fun tracking the votes for your wine daily, discover new food pairings for your wine and others, and enjoy some friendly regional rivalry with those who have nominated wines from other parts of the country.

If you’re a wine, food or lifestyle blogger, this is also a great way to get recognition for your site since your nomination will link to your profile, site and social media accounts.

As a winery or wine agency representative, why would I want my wine nominated?

Just getting your wine nominated will give you exposure on Canada’s largest wine web site, and provide a strong call to action for wine lovers to try your wine and become champions for it.

Bottle award decals will be available for all nominees and winners, indicating the food category in which the wine was featured i.e. Great Wine for Grilled Chicken.chicken 2

 

How are the winning wines selected?

Six Canadian wines in each of the six Canadian food pairing categories will be selected at the end of the nomination voting round on May TBD, 2014: one wine from Western Canada, one from Niagara, one from Southwestern Ontario, one from Prince Edward County, one from Quebec and one from Atlantic Canada, based on the most votes in each region.

So there will be a total of 36 wines in the finals, as no one wine can be a finalist in more than one category, nor can one person be a finalist in more than one category, though both can be nominees n multiple categories.

What’s the cost of entry?

It’s free to both to nominate and to vote for wines.

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How many times can a particular wine be nominated?

A wine can be nominated only once in each of the six categories: grilled chicken, pork, seafood, beef, vegetables and dessert. The first person to nominate the wine in a category becomes the champion for that wine in that category.

The same wine can be nominated in all six categories.

When can I nominate a wine?

You may nominate a wine anytime until May TBD, 2014. It’s good to nominate your wine as early as you can to garner as many votes as possible during the voting period. However, it’s also still worth recognizing terrific wines with a nomination at any time.

How many wines may I nominate?

You can nominate one wine in each of the six Canadian food categories:grilled chicken, pork, seafood, beef, vegetables and dessert. If you would like to see a second wine nominated in a particular category, encourage a friend to nominate it.

What if the wine I want to nominate isn’t listed on your web site?

You can submit new wines to be posted on the site. Once they are approved and posted on the site, you can then nominate them for the competition. Be sure you include a picture of the bottle when you submit it.

Other than picking the wine, is there anything else I should do?

Be sure you have your picture posted on your profile. This can be a traditional head shot, a graphic or avatar.

You may also want to say why you like the wine you’ve chosen on its review page. Find the wine, then click on its name. Beside the bottle shot, click on “Add My Review.”

This doesn’t have to be a formal tasting note and score. You can simply say why you like this wine with Canadian grilled chicken, pork, seafood, beef, vegetables and dessert. However, this isn’t necessary to nominate a wine.

Wine, food and lifestyle bloggers may also want to blog about their choices to provide more background on their selections.

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How do I vote for a wine?

Click on the voting button in the top right corner of the box for the wine. You can vote for wines without nominating any wines.

How many times may I vote for a wine?

You can vote for a particular wine once a day in each category. So if one wine has been nominated in all six categories, you can vote for it each day in each of those six categories.

How many wines may I vote for each day?

Until May TBD, 2014, you can vote for as many wines as you like each day in each category, the only restriction being one vote for any particular wine in a category. The reason is that most of us like more than one wine with chicken or beef, so we should be able to reflect those choices and variety in our voting until we get to the finalist stage to pick the best wine in each category.

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How often are the voting results updated?

Votes are calculated in real-time: as soon as you vote for a wine, the total number of votes gets updated. If your vote tips the scales and enables the wine to move up in ranking on the wall, then it will also change position after you vote.

How do I get more votes for the wine(s) I nominate?

Encourage your friends to vote for your wine by sending them the link to the voting wall and share your votes on Twitter, Facebook and Google + daily. After you vote, you’ll see a box with the social media buttons: click on them to share your support for that wine. Use the hashtag #GCWM

Why those six Canadian food categories?

To launch this competition we wanted to focus on six of the most popular Canadian food categories for July 1 barbecues. Future competitions may expand the number of categories.

How do I choose the particular Canadian food pairing in a category?

As there are many ways to prepare each of the six Canadian food categories, we’ve provided tasty, wine-friendly recipes for Canadian grilled chicken, pork, seafood, beef, vegetables and dessert. Experiment and have fun. When you make your selection, you can say what type of dish you paired with it.

May I submit a recipe?

Yes, you can submit a recipe as long as the ingredients for the six food categories are Canadian.

What about food from outside Canada?

This competition is focused exclusively on Canadian food. Future competitions may involve both international foods and wines.

How can I have more fun with this?

Organize an informal taste-off party with your friends, where each of you brings the bottle of your choice and you all try them. You can make it a potluck by making some of the suggested recipe pairings or your own.

When will the nomination results be announced?

The results of the nomination round will be announced on May TBD.

When do we vote for the finalists in each category?

Voting for the top six wines in each Canadian food category is from May TBD to June TBD. The vote tallies for each wine in the finalist round start at zero again.

How many times and wines may I vote for in the finalist round?

You may vote once a day for one wine in each of the six Canadian food categories.

How can I learn more about the finalist wines?

The champions for each of the finalist wines in each of the six categories will participate in a Google + video hangout dedicated to that particular category where they will debate the merits of their respective wines. I will act as the neutral moderator, as I will throughout this competition. (I won’t be nominating or voting for wines.)

How often are the voting results updated in the finalist round?

Votes are calculated in real-time: as soon as you vote for a wine, the total number of votes gets updated. If your vote tips the scales and enables the wine to move up in ranking on the wall, then it will also change position after you vote.

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When will the winners be announced?

Winners in each of the six categories will be announced June TBD on a national television show.

What makes this wine competition different from others?

Many traditional wine competitions are judged by experts, such as wine writers and sommeliers, who meet in one physical location on a specific date to taste the wines in isolation apart from food and then report their results when they finish. These play an important role in recognizing our best wines based on their technical merits.

This competition will be judged by wine drinkers themselves, online and over a 5-week period, within the context of the food pairings that these wines are usually consumed. Results will be tabulated in real-time and ongoing, with the full engagement of social media. This competition also recognizes and celebrates our best wines based on their appeal to wine drinkers themselves.

When will the next competition be held?

This competition will be held at the same time next year.

Questions or suggestions?

Please e-mail natdecants@nataliemaclean.com

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Juliette et Chocolat – A chocolate oasis in Montreal

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Juliet et ChocolatI discovered Juliette & Chocolat about eight years ago while in Montreal.  Designed as a chocolate salon, Juliette et Chocolat offers as excellent chocolate confections and desserts, including ice creams, brownies and truffles.  They also have a light menu of savoury items like buckwheat crepes with a variety of filling like ham, cheese, etc…

However, what distinguishes Juliette et Chocolat from being just another place for dessert, is its Chocolate Bar.   A full-page list of light and dark, hot and cold drinking chocolates.  The Origin Vintages as the menu states is made from cocoa beans sourced from a single country, this includes the Uganda 80% – described as ‘very bitter and strong, with a high percentage of cocoa.  Hints of earth and mushrooms, slightly smoky.”  The Plantation Vintages are made from cocoa beans sourced from a single plantation.  The Mangaro 65% from Madagascar is ‘cultivated on a former mango plantation, tastes of mango.  Hints of gingerbread and citrus fruits. 1st place at the Salon du Chocolat 2003.’*

Dessert drinks – Sweet Creations involve whipped cream, marshmallows and other indulgent ingredients like Nutella and chocolate curls.  The Alcoholic Chocolates combine your favourite liqueurs like Baileys, Cointreau or just straight whisky. Whatever your chocolate weakness is, truffles, ice cream, brownies or beverages you will find them all here and year round.  There are now several locations in the Greater Montreal area.

*Quoted from the Juliette & Chocolat menu

Juliette et chocolat

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Bourbon in the Afternoon at Home of the Brave

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It’s sunny but breezy and cold.  No matter, it’s Thursday before the long weekend and I need to get away from my home office. It’s been a long week in front of the desktop and I need a diversion.  A quick ride on the streetcar down Spadina to King St. W gets me to my destination.

Whisky:Bourbon2Home of the Brave is on the second floor above Lou Dawgs at 589 King St. W.  My spirits begin to lift as I walk up the stairs to the sound of Jessica by the Allman Brothers.  Yep, this was what I needed and it was going to be good.

It felt a little like 6th Street in Austin on a sunny afternoon.  The atmosphere is laid-back and the soundtrack is Doobie Brothers and Bob Dylan tunes.  My friends from Kentucky and Maryland are lined up to welcome me; George Dickel rye whisky, Knob Creek bourbon and of course, Johnny Walker.  The lunch crowd is made up of tables from the creative shops along King St.W, there sitting around MACs throwing ideas back and forth.

IMG_7894The urban saloon shelves are lined with mason jars and pieces of Americana on the walls.The graffiti chalkboard design above the bar are the descriptions of the 13 American Colonies and Benjamin Franklin’s, Join or Die cartoon.

 All your favourite vintage bourbon or rye whisky cocktails can be had. A few house cocktails a rotating number of what they call, guest book cocktails are featured.

IMG_7898I had a “Sure thing, Dave” which was a cool combination of grapefruit juice, bourbon (I believe). Order one if you go on a really hot day.

The comfort food menu criss-crosses the U.S. with items like Philly Cheesesteak, Maryland Crab Cakes, Chicken and Waffles.

I decide to go light and have the beet salad.  A tasty salad of pickled Heirloom beets, prosciutto, house smoked ricotta, balsamic reduction, crispy parmesan, walnuts with cider dressing.IMG_7906

The staff is smiling, laid-back and happy to help explain the menu.  The service is efficient at both the bar and on the floor, orders are flowing from the open kitchen at the back. Philly Cheesesteaks and Ribwiches come out of the kitchen quickly, so do a lot of their signature, Freedom Fries – fries with coriander catsup, malt vinegar, Manchego cheese and herbs.

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The best place to sit is at the bar which spans half the space. The space between the seats is roomy and the view of the choice of Bourbon, Rye and Whiskies will keep you planning your next drink, and the drink after that.

IMG_7899While the daylight hours get longer, but it’s not that warm yet that the crowds are out in the middle of the day, Home of the Brave is a good place to languish in the afternoon with a bit of Bourbon in a bar that reminds you of someplace else.

Other interesting related links:

http://www.gq.com/life/food/201311/bourbon-whiskey-family-tree

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/30/dining/bourbons-masters-of-the-craft.html?hpw&rref=dining&_r=1

The Rum Exchange, the newest bar in Toronto’s Financial District

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rum exchange official

The Rum Exchange in the heart of the Financial District, is the latest entry to the Toronto bar scene.  Opening last week it is the only bar devoted entirely to the lively spirit of rum.  Located at 67 Richmond St, a simple rum barrel marks the spot of this hip new bar that will surely be the new hangout for laid back suits and hipsters.

Manager Rumen Dimitrov (founder of Pravda and Troika), says that the Rum Exchange “will not only educate you and broaden your horizons” but will also be an authentically great time.   Fifty-five rum selections will be on offer, including a number of top shelf bottles, like Flor de Cana from Nicaragua and Ron Zacapa, a premium rum produced in Guatemala.

A completely black interior is surprisingly cosy with its chandeliers and lit candles. The long space is lined with a single row cocktail tables made of rum barrels and a large U-shaped sofa at the very back. Lots of room to mingle and sway to the sounds of  DJ Kayson, the resident house DJ.

The focus at The Rum Exchange is the return to the classic rum cocktail. Opening night rum tasting included Cuba Libres, Mojitos and their signature drink the Eye Opener accompanied by small tasting plates of charcuterie.  Rum tasting can be reserved in advance and is a great way to learn about rum and get a lesson on mixing cocktails the right way and savouring rum the way it was intended.

The highlight of the evening was the tasting of  the Ron Zacapa spiced rum, accompanied by a tasting plate of Cuban cheese, guava paste, salted chocolate with caramel.  While the Rum Exchange is not a bar restaurant, a selection of small plates from local Caribbean suppliers will be featured accompaniments.

If you’ve got a long relationship with rum and are an aficionado or you’re just looking to discover the lively spirit that rum can be, The Rum Exchange needs to be on your list of bars.

Eating at El Catrin, Mexican Restaurants Part 2

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MuralI’ve been excited for the past two weeks about my reservation at El Catrin.  If you plan to go and do the evening dinner thing and eat after 7:00 p.m. , it will take at least three weeks to get a table, so just be warned.  My two-week wait was hastened by the fact that I took the single remaining reservation for last weekend.

Awarded as one of Canada’s Best New Restaurants 2013 by Sharp Magazine, El Catrin is a cavernous, but spectacularly colourful restaurant in the Distillery District. You walk in to stare up at a grandiose Mexican mural painted by street artist Oscar Flores.  The mural took 100 days to complete and is stunning work of art.

elcatrin wallOn the opposite wall of the restaurant is what can only be described as a temple of Mezcal and Tequila.  The drink menu is two pages of Tequilas and ten types of Mezcal straight up or in a variety of cocktails and bebidas - drinks. My first order was a Paloma Brava – Milagro Reposado, agave, grapefruit, muddled citrus and soda.

However, the Miel Quemada (Burnt Honey) mezcaltles is fresh, smooth and soothing.  Made with Cha Cha Joven mezcal, Cha cha cha ” ( which means “very, very, very ” good in zapoteco )  is the name of a famous Zapoteco poem which tells the history of mezcal from the beginning, to the present day and this is where the name comes from.*

The drink is a mix of Cha Cha Joven, house made honey, fresh lemon and grapefruit bitters.  I had a cold the night I was there and this drink was like a hip, pumped up, alcoholized  version of Neo-Citran and I think much more effective in making you forget that you have a cold.

This is a small plate restaurant, where ordering and sharing three plates per person is the recommended standard. Oliver Le Calvez is the Executive Chef and one of Mexico’s top chefs and his menu is based on the traditional flavours of Mexico.

Of the six or so plates we ordered there were some like the Tostada con higado de pato, a foie-gras tostada.  If you don’t like foie gras or the taste of  “foie”, liver, this is not for you.  It was good, but needed something more to accompany the rich flavour.

There are the usual standards like the fish taco.   The Baja fish taco here was tasty and not greasy.  I’ve had others at the many new Mexican street food places that have popped up over the past year, and this is one of the better ones, it wasn’t bland or greasy.

The Gobernador taco is sautéed shrimp and lobster with chipotle mayonnaise. Refreshing and I probably would’ve just eaten these all evening – it’ll be a great dish to eat out on El Catrin amazing outdoor patio.

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Photo Credit: Gizelle Lau – Globe & Mail

If you’re idea of Mexican food is limited to chimichangas, a red and yellow taco kits and your local burrito shop, this will expand your horizon some. There are some creative dishes, albeit somewhat with the hot peppers toned down, but they’re small plates and will give you a good view of the many flavours of Mexico.   The food is good, it’s fresh, but I long for a place that serves dinners and not just “tasting” items.  But I have to say, it’s the drinks, the bar and the patio that will keep me coming back.

Links:

Cha Cha Joven Mezcal – http://trndmonitor.com/product-spotlight-cha-cha-cha-mezcal/