Friday, March 25, 2011

L’Unità and Maléna

Friday, March 25, 2011
L’Unità is a traditional Italian osteria & wine bar where you can experience handmade pastas, thin crust pizzas, and grilled meats and fish. They have a vast selection of 500 Italian and local wines to complement their seasonal menus.

We had a sample of their salumi board featuring delicious gamey cured meats from L’Unità’s suppliers: Dolce Lucano, The Cheese Boutique, Gabriele Paganelli and smaller producers that they deal with at the St. Lawrence Market.

A delectable favourite of mine was the bacon jam made from scratch at L'Unita and served as a garnish on the salumi board.

L’Unità also makes non-cured additions to their salumi plate daily, such as Rillettes, Terrines and Fresh Sausages.

Maléna serves up their interpretation of Ionian coastal cuisine, heavily influenced by the fresh Mediterranean flavours of Greece and Southern Italy.

Head Chef, Doug Neigel prepared the menu below to showcase the flavours of the region, with exquisite wines expertly selected by Sommelier, Zinta Steprans.


Warm roasted olives & feta
roasted garlic, fresh herbs, peperonico & olive oil

Sardines 'in scapece'
pancetta, parmigiano fricco & garlic crema

Sea urchin crostino
avocado & black cyprus sea salt

Grilled octopus
pancetta & root vegetable fregola, greek yogurt & orange agro dolce

Fritto misto
calamari, prawns & chef's addition crispy gigantes & red pepper conserva


Sheep's milk ricotta gnudi
braised rabbit, spinach & crisp parsnip

Berkshire pork chop
truffled celery root mash, swiss chard & apple caponata

Seared branzino 'in padella'
confit fennel, rapini & white anchovy lemon vinaigrette

Whole grilled sea bream
tomato braised gigantes, horta & cucumber tzatziki


Lemon phyllo tart
with lemon semifreddo

Greek honey 'loukoumades'
with pistachios & cinnamon crema

Mascarpone cannoli
with candied dates & walnuts

134 Avenue Road, Toronto
Twitter: @lunita_enoteca

120 Avenue Road, Toronto
Twitter: @malena120

Posted by: Mark Rodas

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Every nut-lover's dream...

Sunday, March 20, 2011
Nut-lovers: There exists a bakery in Toronto which specializes exclusively in nut products (there is 1/4 lb. of nuts in every bag of their product, actually). And I have to tell you - I've tried all their products first-hand and they are delicious.

The Nut Bakery sent us some samples of both their low sugar and pure cane sugar varieties of Grainless Granola (chunks), Grainless Granola (bars), Pecan Walnut Chocolate Macaroons, and Chocolate Nut Chunk. The latter two were definitely our favourites.

None of the products were too sweet, and just one or two pieces gave you energy for days (I'd recommend everyone have an emergency bag at work - you never know when a late night where you need brain power will come, because as we all know nuts are incredible brain food and I've also heard they can have a mood-stabilizing effect).

The only fault I found with them was that the low sugar varieties, of course, have a bit of an aftertaste that the pure cane sugar ones don't, which is simply part and parcel of having to use a sweetener in place of sugar. But it provides a nice alternative that diabetics can savour. Also, those with Celiac disease can indulge safely in these products, as all are gluten free because they use nuts in place of grains.

I had brought the remains of my least favourite, but still delicious, Grainless Granola Bars to work and my colleagues were amazed. I told them I wish they could've tried the Chocolate Nut Chunk and the Pecan Walnut Chocolate Macaroons, but I ate them all before any leftovers could make it into the office!

Here is a list of places where you can get your hands on their products if you're interested in trying them out.

Yours in food,

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Trying out the new pistol-grip ShuckerPaddy knife with Guinness World Record holder Patrick McMurray!

Saturday, March 12, 2011
This week the Guinness World Record holder for most oysters shucked in one minute, Patrick McMurray, launched his personal "ShuckerPaddy" oyster-shucking knife and even taught me hands-on how to shuck an oyster!

(By the way, he shucked 38 oysters in one minute - and he's not even left-handed - He was telling me how lefties have a big advantage, as they don't have to turn the oyster 180 degrees mid-way through the process of shucking like righties do, and that saves them time.)

He's got a great product out that I think both home chefs and professionals can appreciate - some highlights of the knife:
  • Unlike any other on the market it features an ergodynamic "pistol grip" handle that puts your hand in a more natural alignment with your forearm, so you ultimately use less force to pry open the oyster. (I found it natural to hold and use)
  • Its 4" blade is long enough to accommodate the largest of oysters.
  • Patrick guarantees the ShuckerPaddy handle for 228,865 oysters (which equals two years for Patrick, or a lifetime for everyone else).
  • Even though the blade may break, as all blades do eventually, Patrick says “bring it to me and I'll fix the blade personally.”

Check out the You Tube Tutorial on how to use the knife here.

The ShuckerPaddy is available at The Ceili Cottage, Starfish Oyster Bed and Grill or by calling Spirit of Hospitality at: 905-277-3380.

Happy shucking!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Would "noise ratings" in reviews keep you from going to a restaurant?

Tuesday, March 1, 2011
I (the Stacey half of Tasting Toronto) am admittedly a little bit noise sensitive - it's funny, I live right downtown and can sleep through total chaos with no issue at all but when I'm trying to concentrate on something important to me, the noise around me can drive me to distraction. Enter my trusty iPod to drown out the world when needed!

But that sooo doesn't work when I'm in a noisy restaurant trying to scream across a table to Mark or one of my friends, of course.

I was intrigued to find out that ten years ago the San Francisco Chronicle was the first daily newspaper to introduce "noise ratings" in its restaurant reviews. Although that stat is a bit dated, noise ratings in the restaurant review world is a pretty interesting idea and it got me thinking whether or not that would affect my decision to go to a particular restaurant.

After much thought (so much thought that I NEARLY HAD TO REACH FOR THAT iPOD!) I concluded that I don't think a high noise rating could initially keep me from trying a restaurant whose menu was making my mouth water, but if it was ridiculously loud once I'd gone, it could certainly keep me from going back. I love beerbistro with all my heart but damn, it can get loud in there! I'll still go back. Their mussel bowls and beer-infused desserts are worth it.

But I also wonder if more Canadian publications and blogs will start rating noise levels in their restaurant reviews... I guess it could be hit-and-miss as it depends which night you visited the restaurant (Saturday nights are probably more raucous than Wednesday afternoons). What do you guys think? Will it become more popular to rate noise in reviews? Would a high noise level stop you from going to a restaurant in the first place or prevent you from returning?

[Thanks to my friends at Zoomer 96.3 FM for the info - they are leading the charge against noise pollution in dining establishments with their Anti-Noise Pollution League.]

Yours in food,