A Filipino kamayan feast at Tinuno

In Filipino culture, the word kamayan means to eat with your hands, which stems from the Tagalog word kamay meaning hands. I tried my first kamayan meal at a small restaurant called Tinuno on a sleepy side street near Bloor and Sherbourne. What started as a Filipino grocer and take-out spot, owners Cathy Ortega and Gerald Quinte began offering kamayan dinners to best showcase traditional flavours through a unique experience. As a reflection of the menu, the word Tinuno itself refers to food that is cooked by direct or extreme heat; on a grill or over a fire. Also worth mentioning is that the kamayan set menu is available per person at only $15!

A kamayan feast features tables covered with banana leaves which are directly topped with a generous amount of food. The way the food is presented originates from the Filipino army and their Boodle Fight way of eating. Long mess hall tables would be lined with banana leaves and topped with heaps of food to quickly feed a crowd of people. The sharing and eating of the food with the hands represented brotherhood, camaraderie and equality between soldiers. Boodle was a word used for contraband/sweets and fight referred to the hungry soldiers grabbing and “fighting” for the food on the table.

A kamayan feast for two. A kamayan feast for two.

At Tinuno, a garlic long grain rice is placed on the leaves first and then topped with grilled pork, bangus (milkfish), whole tilapia and squid as well as a few mussels and shrimp. Off to the side there was also grilled Japanese eggplant and okra, mango salad and a few orange slices. For my table of two, my meal arrived already presented on a board and didn’t quite have the same theatrical presentation as larger groups. I didn’t really mind since it looked beautiful either way. On every table there were four bottles of different sauces for diners to help themselves to: soy, sriracha, fish sauce and garlic vinegar (my favourite). Disposable gloves were provided although traditionally bare hands would have been the way to do it.

Left to right: yours truly, gloved and ready to chow down and a closer look at some of the spread, the slices of pork were delicious.
Left to right: yours truly, gloved and ready to chow down and a closer look at some of the spread, the slices of pork were delicious.

The food was very lightly seasoned (except for the pork skewer) so it’s really meant to be eaten with the condiments. It was fun playing around with the sauces and forming different bites. My favourite items were the grilled slices of fatty pork and the bangus. The fish tasted especially good with the vinegar and I liked dipping my okra with a bit of soy. The freshness of the mango salad acted like a palette cleanser, cutting through all the rich foods. My least favourite were probably the mussels and shrimp which were overcooked and not as warm as the rest of the food, but only a minor fault considering how inexpensive the whole meal was.

Clockwise from left to right: dining area with one larger table completely covered in banana leaves, gallery wall of vintage photos, the view from outside (note how busy it is in the doorway) and a caddy of different sauces.
Clockwise from left to right: dining area with one larger table completely covered in banana leaves, gallery wall of vintage photos, the view from outside (note how busy it is in the doorway) and a caddy of different sauces.

The restaurant itself was a very small no frills type of place but had a small patio in the front for warmer weather. I highly recommend making reservations beforehand as it was crazy busy during dinner service. I had to call more than once before I was able to make my reservation and found calling in the morning was the best time. For weekends especially, I would call on the day of to confirm your reservation just in case because I sat close to the entrance and noticed several people had made reservations but they had no record of it (mine included). While I wished the reservation process was easier, I really enjoyed the interactive food experience and I would recommend trying Tinuno out! 

Tinuno
31 Howard St. Toronto, ON M4X 1J6
(647) 343 – 9294

Sakawa Coffee, a hidden gem on the Danforth

Sakawa Coffee is one of the most unassuming places I’ve been to and is a true hidden gem for Japanese comfort food. It is Japanese owned and is on a sleepy strip of the Danforth near Donlands. Sakawa Coffee’s name suggests it’s a only a cafe but they actually offer a full menu for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I was introduced to this spot by a fellow foodie and Instagrammer @anthoni.foodlab who blogs about ramen in Toronto.

We went for dinner and shared an appetizer of shime saba. Shime saba is mackerel that has been lightly cured in salt and rice wine vinegar. The dish came with neat slices of mackerel garnished with julienned green onions, wasabi paste, grated fresh ginger and a dish of soy sauce for dipping. This was my first time trying shime saba and I loved it! Mackerel can tend to have a strong fishy flavour but since this dish is marinated in vinegar it has a light touch of acidity and sweetness to it and tastes really fresh with all the garnishes. Try it with and without the soy for different flavour profiles.

Shime saba, salt and rice wine vinegar cured mackerel.
Shime saba, salt and rice wine vinegar cured mackerel.

For my main dish I ordered the Chanpon style ramen which originates from Nagasaki and is made with a milk based broth and served with seafood and vegetables. I had never seen this style of ramen in Toronto before, most places I frequent specialize in a pork based broth so I was excited to try something different. The noodles were bouncy and al dente and the broth itself is milky but isn’t heavy and thick like a North American style cream soup. It has a mild flavour and some natural sweetness that comes from the vegetables. The vegetables themselves have been prepared separately and the creamy Japanese eggplant and fresh shiitake mushrooms were my favourite.

Chanpon ramen, noodle pull!
Chanpon ramen, noodle pull!

My dining partner ordered the Tantanmen which comes with a sesame broth and minced pork. The origins of this dish comes from the Chinese style dish of the same name that is also made with minced pork and a fermented bean paste sauce. This Japanese version was flavoured with miso and it was very umami. The tantanmen had the same noodles as mine and came with bok choi and bean sprouts. A much richer dish than the Chanpon Ramen but very delicious in its own way.

Tantanmen with a miso sesame broth and minced pork.
Tantanmen with a miso sesame broth and minced pork.

Sakawa Coffee also makes all their own desserts in house. We decided to share a slice of their matcha new york style cheesecake. The cheesecake came on a pretty wooden dish and the greenness of the cake indicated they didn’t skim on the matcha. The cake was quite dense but very tasty and I really liked the crust on the bottom. It tasted like it was made of lightly spiced cookies and had a slight chewiness to it.

Matcha New York style cheesecake.
Matcha New York style cheesecake.

I really enjoyed Sakawa Coffee and I hope this post will inspire you to try them out. It is rare to find a restaurant in Toronto that offers Japanese home cooking in a relaxed vibe. The space is quaint and small with minimal decor but the food and service are very good. I am definitely returning to try some of their other dishes like Japanese curry and omurice. Their traditional Japanese breakfast with onigiri sounds like a winner too! Thanks for reading!

Sakawa Coffee
867 Danforth Ave. Toronto, On M4J 1L8
647-347-4932

Where to eat raw beef bibimbap in Jeonju

Bibimbap means “mixed rice” and is a popular Korean dish where a bowl of steamed rice is topped with a variety of ingredients and the eater mixes it all up to his tastes with a savoury sauce. In South Korea, different variations exist in different cities. Jeonju is famed for its raw beef bibimbap. I met up with a Jeonju local who took me to Hankookkwan (한국관) in the Hanok Village. We ordered one raw beef bibimbap and one dolsot bibimbap which comes in a hot stone bowl. While we were waiting for our dishes to come, the servers brought us an impressive selection of panchan (complimentary side dishes).

Clockwise from top left: Hankookwan sign, Beef and mung bean panchan, various complimentary panchans and the staple cabbage kimchi.
Clockwise from top left: Hankookwan sign, Beef and mung bean panchan, various complimentary panchans and the staple cabbage kimchi.

One of my favourite sides was the mung bean jelly (almost like a mung bean tofu) with cooked beef. The mung bean jelly had a very light flavour and was served with a little bit of savoury minced beef. The different varieties of veggies and kimchi tasted fresh and light.

After a short wait my bibimbap arrived in a pretty gold bowl. All the colourful ingredients were neatly arranged on top and there was a generous sprinkling of sesame seeds on top of the raw beef and egg yolk. Therewere a few gingko seeds and pine nuts on top as well. A small dish of gochujang, gochujang, a spicy pepper paste came on the side so I could add as much or as little as I wished.

Raw beef bibimbap before and after being mixed.
Raw beef bibimbap before and after being mixed.

I stirred all the ingredients in my bowl with the gochujang until it was thoroughly mixed. The raw beef was very flavourful and tasted more delicate than the cooked beef I’m used to. All the vegetables in the dish were really fresh and each gave a unique texture to the dish. One in particular that I never see back home is fernbrake (the brown sticks) which is a plant that is foraged in the mountains. All of the vegetables had a light sesame oil flavour that went well with the gochujang sauce.

The dolsot bibimbap was great too and came sizzling hot. The assortment of vegetables were the same as mine and also arranged with care. The only difference was the beef which was cooked already and was the same beef that was served with the mung bean panchan that I mentioned earlier. The seeds and nuts that mine came were absent but the hot stone bowl crisped the bottom of the rice giving it a texture mine lacked.

Dolsot bibimbap, in a hot stone bowl.
Dolsot bibimbap, in a hot stone bowl.

The portions were very big and while I managed to finish my bibimbap there was no way I could finish the panchan. While we were heading out a line of people waiting for tables had formed at the door. My new friend told me that was common at Hankookkwan so if you decide to go, either go for an earlier lunch or expect a bit of a wait. The sign outside actually doesn’t have any english on it but Hankookkwan is the phonetic spelling of its Korean name. There was also a large menu displayed outside with pictures of bibimbap so you can look for that as well.

Hankookkwan (한국관)
31 Taejo-ro, Wansan-gu, Jeonju, Jeollabuk-do, South Korea
+82-63-232-0074
More info.

 

Save

Save

Save

Treasure Hill Artist Village in Taipei

If you enjoy art, I highly recommend checking out the Treasure Hill Artist Village in Taipei. Treasure Hill was originally an illegal settlement with shelters built in the 1940s, by Kuomintang military veterans that held an anti-aircraft position. The squatter community survived many challenges through the decades but the buildings were in a state of decay. In 2010, the Global Artivists Participation Project and the Taipei City Government restored Treasure Hill into an artist village.  Some of the original inhabitants now live alongside artist studios in a ecological and sustainable community where they recycle and filter water, compost and use minimal electricity.

Treasure Hill Artist Village
Treasure Hill Artist Village.

The artist village has been mentioned in the media but it is a low-key area to visit that hasn’t been overrun by tourists. There is a small visitor center (more like a kiosk) when you enter but that’s about it. It isn’t gimmicky or monetized like other tourist attractions. It is a neighborhood with true grit where you can see a piece of Taipei’s past.

One of my favourite pieces I saw painted on a wall.
One of my favourite pieces I saw painted on a wall.

I really enjoyed exploring Treasure Hill and the art that lived within the old shelters and decayed walls. If you like taking photos like me, there is a lot of beauty in the old buildings and the overgrowth of plants. It was fun to wander around and discover art in unlikely places. I was there in the fall and I only saw two or three other people wandering around. It was incredibly quiet and relaxing, almost like being in an outdoor gallery. It’s a nice mini escape from the bustle of the city and all the street markets.

Space Invaders
Space invader type characters tiled on a house.

Treasure Hill Artist Village is quick walk from the Gongguan MRT station and free to visit. I would suggest 1.5-2 hours for a visit. Before you go, take note that there aren’t really any eateries or shops within Treasure Hill itself. There is only a cute tiny cafe with some local art within the village and a convenience store at the bottom of the hill. If you’re interested in learning more about the Treasure Hill Artist Village, you can read about it here and here.

Save

Save

Filipino Feast at Lasa by Lamesa

As the name suggests, Lasa is from the same owner as Lamesa Filipino Kitchen, Les Sabilano. Both restaurants specialize in Filipino food, but Lasa is a casual self-serve spot with classic dishes while Lamesa is a table service restaurant with a more modernized menu. I’m a huge fan of Lamesa and have been wanting to try Lasa ever since it opened last fall on St. Clair West. I finally went with my boyfriend last Sunday and we ordered a feast!

Lasa is self-serve but the space is bright and well decorated with plants on every table and pretty bamboo pendant lamps. We went up to their counter to place our order and grabbed our utensils, water and plates. After a short wait, my name was called when our order was ready.

Clockwise from left: happy with my mouth full of lumpia, bamboo lights and a glimpse at the decor.
Clockwise from left: happy with my mouth full of lumpia, bamboo lights and a glimpse at the decor.

We were really craving for something fried so we chose the Lumpia Shanghai. Lumpias are the Filipino version of the spring roll, they are usually much skinnier, shorter and often wrapped with their ends open. I actually prefer lumpias to Chinese style spring rolls because it usually means there’s a higher wrapper to filling ratio, resulting in a crunchier roll. Lasa’s Lumpia Shanghai were filled with ground pork seasoned with hoisin sauce, soy and sesame oil and were served with a sweet chili dipping sauce. The opened ends of fried pork were addictively delicious and I could have easily have inhaled another plate of them if we didn’t already order so much food.

Lumpia Shanghai
Lumpia Shanghai with sweet chili dipping sauce and sweet pickled carrots and radish.

One dish that really caught my eye was the Chicken Inasal, grilled chicken thighs marinated in lemongrass and soy with an achuete glaze and calamansi. Immediately I knew this dish was a winner when it arrived because it smelled incredibly fragrant and had a lovely char on every piece. The chicken was juicy and you could tell the marinade had been absorbed throughout the meat. The achuete glaze, made with annatto seeds gave it a lovely red colour and a slight sweetness while the calamansi added a hint of citrusy brightness.

Grilled Chicken Inasal.
Grilled Chicken Inasal.

I’m a sucker for grilled meats, so I also ordered one of Lasa’s BBQ Pork Skewers which was a steal at only $2.50! The pork was marinated in soy and 7Up, which I’ve never heard of before but definitely worked! It was served with some sweet pickled carrot and radish which helped cut through the richness of the meat.
Lasa Pork Skewer.
Since our other dishes were very meat-centric we also ordered a few vegetarian options as well. We ordered the Pancit which are Cantonese egg noodles with veggies tossed in a soy, sesame and citrus sauce. The noodles were saucy, tasty and al dente, but the flavours were ones I grew up with so personally it wasn’t as exciting as the aforementioned dishes. However, it acted as a great addition to our meal as whole.

Pancit, egg noodles with veggies.
Pancit, egg noodles with veggies.

To get a sense of how much we ordered, our last dish was a Silog, which by itself is a combo for one on Lasa’s menu! All the silogs, comes with garlic rice, salad greens, a fried egg and a protein of your choice. We went with the Crispy Tofu to balance out all our meat dishes and because I actually love tofu! Lasa’s tofu was very flavourful from its Chinese five spice marinade and it also had a lot of great textures. The tofu had a soft interior and a breaded and fried exterior with garnishes of scallions, chili and crushed peanuts. Yum!

Crispy Tofu Silog,
Crispy Tofu Silog,

After all our savoury dishes I still wanted dessert and I couldn’t pass up the idea of an ube leche flan. It came in a takeout container so the smart thing to do would have been to save it for later but after we had a taste we couldn’t help ourselves from eating it all at once. This was my first time eating a Filipino flan and it was much richer than other flans I’ve ever had. I’m used to more a slight wobble from the custard but at Lasa it was a thick and creamy custard. The ube purple yam flavour was relatively subtle compared to its arresting colour and had the perfect amount of sweetness. It was especially delicious when eaten with a drizzle of the light caramel syrup hiding in the bottom of the container.

Ube Leche Flan.
Ube Leche Flan.

I loved everything we ate at Lasa and can’t believe it took me this long to try it. There are a lot of interesting sounding dishes I would love to try on another visit, like Bangus, a traditional Filipino fried milkfish or their Pork Rib Sinigang, a tamarind based soup that comes in a large clay pot. It’s great to have access to Filipino food in the city without venturing into the ‘burbs. The Corso Italia neighborhood might seem out of the way for people who are used to hanging out in the downtown core but Lasa is just a quick walk from St. Clair West station and definitely worth the trek. I know I’ll be back soon and definitely again in the summer when Lasa has halo-halo back on their menu!

Lasa by Lamesa
634 St Clair Ave. West Toronto ON M6C 1A9
647-343-1110

Save

Save

Winterlicious Dinner at Miku

I’ve been wanting to go to Miku for a while now so I was really excited to see that they were participating in Winterlicious this year. Even more exciting was that many of their Winterlicious menu items are from their regular menu. Most restaurants have an exclusive Winterlicious menu, which is nice but I find that you’re getting more of a true experience when you’re able to try some of the restaurant’s signature items for the special Winterlicious price. In Miku’s case, it was $48CAD for a three course dinner.

For our first course both my boyfriend and I chose the Miku Signature Aburi Sushi Selection which consisted of two nigiris, two pieces of maki rolls and two of their torched oshi sushis. To be honest, the torched aburi oshi sushi is the main reason I wanted to try Miku in the first place. From where we sat, we could see the chef holding a piece of charcoal under his flame as he torched the pressed sushi and garnished each piece with precision. Normally when I go for Winter/Summerlicious I always suggest to whoever I’m dining with that we order different things so we can try more items. This time I was glad we didn’t because every piece was so delicious I would have had a hard time sharing it! Each piece tasted very unique and unlike sushi I have had before. Our favourite was the Salmon Oshi which had wild BC sockeye salmon, Miku sauce and a thin slice of jalapeno. The Miku sauce was buttery and deliciously charred and was definitely what made the sushi stand out.

Aburi Oshi Sushi Selection, clockwise from left: Salmon Oshi, Ebi Oshi, Coal Harbour Roll, Queen's Quay Roll, Scallop Nigiri, Salmon Nigiri & pickled ginger on the side.
Aburi Oshi Sushi Selection, clockwise from left: Salmon Oshi, Ebi Oshi, Coal Harbour Roll, Queen’s Quay Roll, Scallop Nigiri, Salmon Nigiri & pickled ginger on the side.

For the main, I ordered the Kyoto Saikyo Miso Baked Sablefish & Yuzu Butter Poached Half Atlantic Lobster Tail which came with tuscan kale, roots vegetables and quinoa, cauliflower fritter with tomato chutney and wasabi chimichurri. Sablefish (also known as Black Cod) is my favourite fish to eat, it might even be my favourite protein of all time. The fish was perfectly cooked with its flesh moist and buttery, with a hint of sweetness. I made sure to save it as my last bite. The lobster was nice and delicate and went especially well with the wasabi chimichurri. All the veggies were a nice accompaniment, although I wasn’t a big fan of the charred eggplant puree which was too smokey for me.

Kyoto Saikyo Miso Baked Sablefish & Yuzu Butter Poached Half Atlantic Lobster Tail
Kyoto Saikyo Miso Baked Sablefish & Yuzu Butter Poached Half Atlantic Lobster Tail

My boyfriend ordered the Petite Beef Tenderloin & Seared Miso Foie Gras with a tamari soy veal jus, wasabi spinach puree, charred broccoli, shiitake mushroom and garlic arare crumble. The foie gras was tasty but wasn’t as creamy as I would have liked. However, the tenderloin was perfectly pink inside and was melt in your mouth tender. You definitely didn’t need a steak knife to cut it.. The tamari soy veal jus was full of savoury umami flavour and tasted great with the beef. Miku should put this dish on to their regular menu!

Petite Beef Tenderloin & Seared Miso Foie Gras
Petite Beef Tenderloin & Seared Miso Foie Gras

I love all things matcha so I chose the Green Tea Opera for dessert, another item that’s on their regular menu. The cake had layers of green tea sponge cake, matcha buttercream, dark chocolate ganache, adzuki bean cream and hazelnut wafer. It was beautifully presented and served with matcha ice cream. I really enjoyed all the textures of the different layers and it wasn’t too sweet.

Green Tea Opera Cake with matcha ice cream.
Green Tea Opera with matcha ice cream.

My second choice would have been the Chocolate Croissant Bread Pudding and lucky for me, my boyfriend chose that one. The bread pudding was light and custardy and was served with a delicious miso salted caramel. There were crunchy bits of candied sesame pecan and everything tasted great with the Tahitian vanilla ice cream.

Chocolate Croissant Bread Pudding.
Chocolate Croissant Bread Pudding.

I loved every dish at Miku and it was honestly one of my best ‘Licious experiences in a long time. Aside from the amazing food, the service was excellent and the restaurant had a nice relaxed ambiance despite its odd location across from the ferry docks. Another thing I personally loved were all the beautiful ceramics used in our food (like the aburi sushi plate) and on display throughout the restaurant. Winterlicious ends this week and I highly recommend you snag a table at Miku if there are any left. You can see their full menu on their website. I’m crossing my fingers they will be doing Summerlicious this year as well!

Miku
10 Bay St #105 Toronto, ON M5J 2R8
647-347-7347

Save

Where to go for simits and Turkish coffee

Simit sandwiches and Turkish coffee and tea.
Simit sandwiches and Turkish coffee and tea.

Simit & Chai Co. is lovely Turkish café on King West tucked under a condo building along the somewhat barren area near Niagara St. Husband and wife, Candeniz “John” and Duygu “Dee” Ulgen opened up Simit & ChaiCo. in March earlier this year and it has been a popular place for locals ever since. Turkish breads called simits and chai tea are the café’s signature items as the namesake suggests.

Simits are bagel-like in appearance with its hooped shape but it is wider and not boiled prior to baking. The word simit comes from the Arabic word, samīd referring to “white bread or fine flour”. Simits are typically encrusted in sesame seeds and have a slight crunch on the outside and chewy interior. Simits date back to the 1500s in Istanbul but but different variations can be found in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern countries. I saw many roadside carts full of simits all over Istanbul during my visit there a few years ago. Vendors would call out to potential customers as they walked by and it wasn’t uncommon to see someone carrying large trays of simits in their arms. The Istanbul variety is lightly coated in molasses before being rolled in sesame seeds and locals usually eat them plain as a quick breakfast or snack along with their tea.

"The Street", simit with cream cheese and olive paste.
“The Street”, simit with cream cheese and olive paste.

Simit & Chai make Istanbul style simits and offer many sandwich creations with them. On my visit, my friend went with “The Everyday” which is a simit with cream cheese and I chose “The Street” which was filled with cream cheese and a black olive paste.  The cream cheese and olive paste were both generous and light tasting. I loved the texture of the simit itself with its crusty exterior full of sesame seeds. You can taste a slight sweetness from the molasses but it’s definitely still a savoury bread. The interior of the simit is chewy and not nearly as dense as a Montreal style bagel which I really enjoyed. Some deli sandwich fillings are offered too, in their “The Ham-ster” there is smoked ham, brie and greens. If none of their creations appeal to you, you can also choose your own fillings to customize something to your liking.

Turkish coffee in a cute ceramic cup.
Turkish coffee in a cute ceramic cup.

Aside from the simits they also offer many beverages. Unfortunately they were out of their chai on the day I was there. Instead I chose their Turkish steeped tea which was like an Orange Pekoe but stronger in flavour and mellowed out with a dash of sugar. My friend went with a short and strong cup of Turkish coffee brewed from a popular Turkish brand, called Kurukahveci Mehmet Efend. Turkish coffee looks much like a short cup of espresso in size but is actually very different. The coffee itself is ground very, very fine and it is not strained from the coffee when it is served. It is recommended to drink your coffee nice and slow so the sediments can settle to the bottom. The grinds itself can take up a third of the entire cup itself and is not meant to be consumed as is gritty and unpleasant. Instead the grounds act as cushy padding helping to keep the cup of coffee warm. A fun fact for the grounds is that they are sometimes tipped out on to a saucer for fortune telling in Turkey.

Clockwise from the top left: Cafe counter, "pogaca" pastries filled with feta, date squares and granola bars, and honey cookies and baklava.
Clockwise from the top left: Cafe counter, “pogaca” pastries filled with feta, date squares and granola bars, and honey cookies and baklava.

Simit & Chai also makes their own Turkish pastries and sweets. On the day I went, there were different kinds of muffins, flaky pastries with spinach and cheese, baklava and cookies drizzled with honey. In the fridge, there were many bottled cold drinks as well as cups of house made iced tea. The café itself has cozy wood floors and spaciously high ceilings with a mix of large and small tables. It is great for a nice lunch or afternoon treat but I also saw a few people quietly working on their laptops or reading a book. If I lived in the neighborhood, this would easily be my new go-to café but even though I don’t, I foresee many lunch dates here in the future. Plus, I have to return to try their chai!

Simit & Chai Co.
787 King St W.
Toronto, ON
M5V 1N4
647-352-4161

The best jams & scones in Toronto

Three years ago I taught myself how to make jam after going to the book launch of We Sure Can! by Sarah B. Hood. She did a demo on how to make strawberry balsamic vinegar and black pepper jam and ever since then, I’ve been hooked. I made all sorts of jams and canned goods and even taught seasonal canning workshops for Fresh City Farms for the last three years. The strawberry jam Sarah made that day will always be one of my go-to recipes and her book is still my all-time favourite preserving book to this day. As you can imagine, I only rarely buy jams nowadays since I’ve become quite the jam snob. However, there is one place in Toronto that I absolutely adore and that is Kitten and the Bear.

KATBInterior
Clockwise from left: Jars of jam for purchase, Kitten and the Bear’s adorable counter, and a selection of loose leaf Sloane teas for smelling.

Kitten and the Bear opened in 2013 in Parkdale and is owned by a husband and wife duo named Bobby and Sophie. Their tiny shop is beyond adorable and their jams leave me lusting for more. On one section of a wall are shelves of their jewel-like jam jars and pretty tins of tea. The shop only has a window seat for three and a second table for two. Some days when I go, I can see the jam being cooked in traditional French copper pots on the stove in the back and the sweet smells fill the air.

ButtermilkScones
The best buttermilk scones I’ve ever tasted with a little dish of clotted cream.

I love bringing my friends here to catch up with an afternoon tea and jam date. Their tea service includes a pot of Sloan Tea of your choice, a tasting menu of four jams, clotted cream and their insanely delicious buttermilk scone. This might sound light but the scone is the size of my hand and easily substitutes as a self-indulgent lunch. Also, everything is served on beautiful china with embroidered napkins and cute mismatched teacups to make you feel like you never want to leave.

The four jams on the day I’m there included Strawberry Rhubarb, Banana Bourbon & Vanilla Bean, Sweet Orange Honeyed Whisky Marmalade, and Blackberry, Plum & Violet. I thought the selection was quite a nice balance of different fruits and tastes with a mix of classic and inventive flavours. I’m not a huge fan of banana things and was surprised to find that was my favourite jam of the bunch. The jam was so rich and creamy, it was like having a decadent dessert.

JamSelection
Clockwise from left: Sweet Orange Honeyed Whisky Marmalade, Blackberry, Plum & Violet Jam, Banana, Bourbon & Vanilla Bean Jam, and Strawberry Rhubarb Jam.

I love strawberry jams and theirs are always amazing. One of my favourites that I’ve had on a previous visit was their Strawberry, Basil and Lime jam. It was so delicious that I tried to re-create my own version at home after I finished the jar I bought. Their marmalade is fresh and summery and provides a nice divide between the other jams. If you’ve never had a handmade marmalade, you’re missing out. The ones at grocery stores just don’t cut it. The Blackberry, Plum & Violet is the most unusual of the options and I would say it’s a bit of an acquired taste since the floral flavours are quite strong, but it has a nice and chunky texture that is different than the others.

SconeWithJam
Buttermilk scone with a slather of clotted cream and the Strawberry Rhubarb Jam.

When I’m eating my jammy scone, thick with clotted cream, I always find myself rationing it so I can stretch out the experience as long as possible. I need all my will-power to prevent myself from hoarding jars of their jam and buying a dozen of their frozen scones to take home. Kitten and the Bear is one of my favourite places in the city and once you go there yourself, you will quickly see why.

Kitten and the Bear 
1574 Queen Street West
Toronto, Ontario
M6R 1A6
647-926-9711
No reservations, please check hours on their website.

Save

Save

Eating crabs in Havana

Cangrejitos.
Cangrejitos.

I went to Havana for the first time in March, earlier this year. As always when I travel, I try hard to look for interesting foods I have never had before. One sure fire way to find some good eats anywhere is to see where locals go. One day when I was walking around the Parque Central I noticed on the side of a building (across from El Capitolio) that a small line was forming and people were buying these small crescent shaped donuts by the handfuls.

Lady frying the cangrejitos.
Cangrejitos being fried.

I got in the line, not knowing exactly what I was getting but I was in no hurry and my curiosity had been peaked. The stall was small but I could see the ladies trying hard to dish out as many donuts as they could from their little fryer. While reading the signs in line, I discovered that the donuts were called, cangrejitos which explained their small crescent shapes since the name meant “little crabs” in Spanish. These cangrejito donuts are a sometimes eaten for breakfast but are more popular as a snack to the locals.

Gauva jam filled cangrejito donut.
Gauva jam filled cangrejito donut.

I was given two cangrejitos on a thin piece of cardboard for $1CAD and I went to the nearby park to eat them. The dough was slightly dense and chewy and not cakey or soft like the yeast donuts I’m used to back home. On my second bite, I was pleasantly surprised to find that they were filled with a sweet guava jam! As someone with no food allergies, surprises like these are what I love about traveling. Guavas grow plentifully in Cuba and is used in many pastries. Coincidentally, we had been served some guava jam during breakfast earlier that morning or I still might not have known what I was eating, haha!  Keep an eye out for some little crabbie snacks the next time you’re in Havana!

Save

Save

Yum yum, Yuzu

Do you love yuzu, like me? This is just a quick PSA to let you know that Millie Creperie in Kensington market is currently serving a yuzu gelato soft serve and it’s delicious!

yuzugelato
Yuzu gelato soft serve

For those of you that are unfamiliar with yuzu, it’s a Japanese citrus fruit that looks like a mandarin shaped lemon with a slightly bumpy skin. It has a really aromatic flavour that is a cross between mandarin, grapefruit and lemon. The fruit itself is rarely eaten but the flavourful zest is often used in Japanese cuisine. It’s not a super common ingredient you will find in many restaurants or grocery stores since it is usually quite pricey. Although, if you’re curious, you can buy bottles of yuzu juice at the Japanese grocery store, Sanko on Queen St. West and also at PAT Mart in Koreatown.

Millie Creperie is known for the Japanese gelato crepes and crepe cakes. They only feature one soft serve flavour at a time, so yuzu try it while you can! 😉