Articles Tagged ‘Weekly lunch pick’

WEEKLY LUNCH PICK: Pulled pork taco from Corazón de Maíz

Much has been written about Corazón de Maíz’ sopa Azteca — commonly called “tortilla soup” — so I’ll take on its taco. (Though I did have soup to start, and can report it’s a splendid version, as good as it’s ever been.)

The pulled pork taco from Corozon de Maiz includes refried beans, onion, tomato, peppers, pico de gallo, cheese, and cilantro. Photo by Anne DesBrisay

It’s also filling. Unless there’s an afternoon siesta planned, tackling more than one taco after a bowl of sopa will be tough going. And when there’s only one choice to be made in terms of taco filling, always best to order the pork. Stuffed into a corn tortilla (not made here, but the quality seems fine) is immensely flavourful, moist and slightly fired up pulled pork, along with refried beans, onion, tomato, sweet peppers, jalapeno, pico de gallo, pully cheese. and fresh cilantro.

I dollop on the excellent house guacamole, and head for the salsa bar to personalize the package. The sauces are house made and worth exploring, from the mildest (soft green garlic and jalapeno) to something called the encabronar (which means to infuriate in Spanish), with saucey stops along the way. If you’re not sure, there are directions. Or you can ask for help: if chef/owners Mariana and Erick aren’t too busy, they are happy to offer guidance.

Cost: $3.50/taco

Corazón de Maíz 55 ByWard Market Square, 613-244-1661


WEEKLY LUNCH PICK: A delightful club sandwich at Hintonburg Public House (shame about the price)

HPH’s club sandwich is a superior rendition of the classic — well seasoned, incredibly moist chicken, with yummy bacon, tomato, lettuce, a full flavoured aioli on lightly toasted white bread.

By Anne DesBrisay

Although it’s been a few years since the culinary gentrification of this corner of the city began in earnest, it still must be startling for Hintonburg’s old timers to see the steady flow of well-dressed uptowners stopping in for a bite — to see Volvos where Volvos never parked before.

I’m trying to remember the order of things. It seems to me Tennessy Willems, Burnt Butter, Alpha Soul, and Back Lane launched the foodie revolution in this hood. Then came this place, the Hintonburg Public House, shortly thereafter in late 2011.

I have been a few times to the HPH for an evening meal, but hadn’t stopped in for lunch. So I found a friend — whose Volvo has heated seats necessary for an unneccessarily cold day in June — and remedied this.

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WEEKLY LUNCH PICK: Working near Dows Lake/Little Italy? Stop by for Morning Owl’s panini

Tucked between a 12 grain Art-is-in bun, a thick slab of Owl-made porchetta as well as asparagus, bacon, mustard, rosemary, and parmigiano

By Anne DesBrisay

I have long been green with envy over the MO’s retro orange fridge. In fact, I looked into acquiring one for my kitchen after my very first Morning Owl visit, but decided I’d have to give up my espresso habit if I were ever to afford it. So I settled for a dull and ordinary fridge that does the job but gives me no pleasure. But I climb the stairs of this place for a great cup of coffee and a crusty scone often enough that I feel some kinship with that Big Chill machine and for now, that will have to do.

Last week I had a Morning Owl panini for the first time. Tucked between a 12 grain Art-is-in bun (purchased now at Farm Boy, as Aii no longer sells its bread wholesale) was a thick slab of Owl-made porchetta stuffed with asparagus, bacon, mustard, rosemary, and parmigiano.

The meat was roasted up moist and juicy, the asparagus still had some spine to it, and the flavour was bold and big. As for the rest —  lettuce, tomato, a smear of pesto mayo, a bit more dijon, all delivered by that great seedy bun — it was a sandwich to brighten a rainy day, enjoyed fully and thoroughly in a great little place with a very fine fridge.

Cost: paninis all cost $7

Open: Monday to Friday, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Morning Owl Coffehouse, 583 Rochester St., 613-680-8336.

WEEKLY LUNCH PICK: Attacking The Table’s lunch buffet with gusto

"What had started out as a careful, cost-cutting approach to The Table's buffet turned into a full-steam-ahead and damn the weigh scale attack on its hot and cold offerings"

By Anne DesBrisay

Unpitted olives, as much as I craved them right then, right there, I walked right on by. I figured they’d weigh me down and spike the bill. Instead, I headed for the baby spinach salad. Light and breezy stuff.

And then I dabbled with a bit of kale and swiss chard (heavier greens, to be sure, but worth their weight in gold). The organic tofu fritters beckoned — mostly for the vegan, gluten-free onion chutney that made them seem edible — and so did the cornmeal crumble with rosemary and roasted parsnips and all that crusty-gooey cheesey goodness on top.

A bit further along The Table‘s offerings was the pan of roasted vegies — mostly onions, charred peppers, and purple skinned eggplant — and on they came. The all-veggie jambalaya promised a bit of heat (and delivered) so that was scooped, and from the cold section, an arame seaweed salad (vegan/g-f) with snow pea shoots. Finally, a healthy dollop of the g-f house hummus. No bread though.

What had started out as a careful, cost-cutting approach to The Table’s buffet turned into a full-steam-ahead and damn the weigh scale attack on its hot and cold offerings.

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WEEKLY LUNCH PICK: The salad roll days of summer at Chez Bien

Lots of Vietnamese restaurants make their salad rolls ahead. At Chez Bien, they're made to order — and that makes all the difference.

By Anne DesBrisay

Chef Bien of Chez Bien used to cook in Italian restaurants on Preston Street. My first visit was lunch, but if you come back for dinner (recommended) you should give his Asian marinated lamb (lemongrass, ginger, garlic, star anise) served with Italian style roast potatoes (rosemary, garlic, olive oil) a try. Pretty successful fusion fare!

But on the first summer-like days of the year thoughts naturally turn to summer rolls. Goi Cuon, also called salad rolls, of softened rice paper circles wrapped around grilled meat, greens, vegetables, noodles and fresh herbs. Lots of Vietnamese restaurants make these, and make them ahead. At Chez Bien, they’re made to order and that makes all the difference.

The grilled pork is warm and fragrant, the vermicelli at room temperature, the vegetables fresh and crunchy in their sweet and sour marinade, while the chopped mint lends a burst of summery vigour to the package.

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WEEKLY LUNCH PICK: Mitla reinvents the sandwich with Mexican tortas and cactus quesadillas

Mexico's answer to the sandwich, tortas start with a crusty white roll stuffed with fresh goodies and it all gets grilled on a panini press.

By Shawna Wagman

For me, Mitla is a classroom. I go there to learn about the flavours of Oaxaca, Mexico, from someone who lived there and immersed herself in its food culture. I also go there for a damn fine lunch.

I immediately fell in love with agua de fruta ($3), cold refreshing “fruit water”— in this case, it was mango; the other option was passion fruit — beloved in Mexico for helping to beat the summer heat. I found the amount of sweetness, and the appealing consistency — thirst-quenching drinkable sorbet — just right. I polished it off before my lunch arrived.

Entering the festive red shop (blue from the street) nestled in the heart of residential Vanier, it feels like I am having lunch at the kitchen table in someone’s colourful little home. That someone is owner Ana Collins, who was flying solo in the Oaxacan-inspired kitchen on the afternoon I recently visited for lunch.

Looking up at the chalkboard menu, I quickly noted that many of the Spanish words were unfamiliar and details are few so I asked Collins for some direction. She recommended the torta ($5), a Mexican sandwich — chicken, chorizo or veggie — grilled into crusty-gooey submission on a panini press.

I also wanted to try something made with her homemade corn tortillas so I opted for a pair of quesadillas ($3), intrigued by the cactus and cheese option.

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WEEKLY LUNCH PICK: A reinvented Negozio Nicastro introduces its new lunch menu and grand espresso bar-café to replace Caffe Ventuno

The Nicastros closed Caffé Ventuno and transformed the negozio into a gourmet food emporium and espresso bar with casual cafe seating.

Last summer, Mike Nicastro told us about his family’s plans to shut down the restaurant Caffe Ventuno after 7 years and then to expand the “negozio” part of the business — the Italian food emporium — to include a traditional espresso bar and café under one banner: Negozio Nicastro.

I like to think of it as mini Eataly.

The renovations have opened up the space to take advantage of the natural light pouring in (the dividing low wall has been removed) and a small seating area remains next to the window. Customers can also seat themselves at the handsome new zinc-top bar with a grand espresso machine as the focal point. Nicastro says he’s hoping the casual neighbourhood vibe makes the place feel “even more of a little slice of Italy right here on Wellington.”

So imagine the corner café, deli, grocery, pizzeria, and pastry shops in Italy — all rolled into one. Nicastro opens up early in the morning (say buongiornoto an expertly made cappuccino starting at 7 a.m.!) and the doors remain open all day for whatever snacks, meals, beverages, ingredient,s and take-out food you need.

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WEEKLY LUNCH PICK: Swooning over Allium’s chicken fried snails and marvellous mushrooms on toast

Chicken fried snails were as strangely delicious as it sounds.

Sometimes you just want a proper lunch. Nothing too fussy or elegant, but something for one of those days when making it until noon without going back to bed is reason enough to treat yourself to something special. Something, preferably, that doesn’t come on a bun. Or with a side of french fries.

That’s why it was so nice to see fewer sandwiches on Allium’s lunch menu last week and more inspiring ideas for the midday meal. To add even more variety to our day, my friend and I decided to share three plates.

I was told on my way out the door that the lunch menu will be changing up for the month of March sometime this week, so these particular dishes might not be available.

I don’t encounter snails very often, so when I spotted crispy fried snails, I couldn’t not order them. Our server told us they were chicken fried — not sure if that means fried in chicken fat or just treated like fried chicken. Either way, these melt-in-the-mouth baby beignets were divine (banish any thoughts of rubbery or briny specimens) — especially when used to mop up the sticky honey-garlic sauce at the bottom of the bowl reminiscent of the sweet dip for springrolls. Together with the swath of Sriracha mayo painted around the wide rim of the bowl and confetti of baby cilantro leaves, there was a cleverly unexpected Thai twist to the dish.

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WEEKLY LUNCH PICK: For ByWard Market dwellers, the ‘Lunch Box’ at Social

The Lunch Box: On this day, a fine pea soup, an open-faced spicy beef sandwich, and a small green salad

Blessed with great bones, handsome lines and a very fine address, Social has been fitting the bill for many occasions for over a decade.

But it can be unpredictable — under-performing one meal, one month, and then razzle dazzling another. That’s its little issue, its capriciousness, and one that — notwithstanding its bones and lines and very fine address — tends to keep it off the list of the city’s finest.

I tend to like Social for lunch. You often bump into a parliamentarian in a back booth hunched over papers. And when the winter sun is out full blast, a table by the tall tall windows can be a pretty swell place to bask.

I’m here to check Social’s new-to-me ‘Lunch Box’ — soup, salad, and the sandwich of the day.

It took 40 minutes to arrive — the server was working alone, her colleague ill, the room busy, one table of four men all ordering cappuccinos, damn them. When the Lunch Box did show up, though, it was really very nice: a fine pea soup with a bit of creamy finish, an open faced spicy beef sandwich, the meat slow cooked and tender, a small green salad. It didn’t rock my world, but it was tasty enough and for the price, was a solid deal.

Cost: $14.

Social, 537 Sussex Dr., 613-789-7355.

WEEKLY LUNCH PICK: From Hintonburg Public House’s new menu: French Onion Soup that would make Julia proud

The tasty union of bread, onions and cheese sing in sweet harmony at Hintonburg Public House

I’m so tired of talking about the weather. Can we talk about French Onion Soup for a minute?

In Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Julia Child taught a generation of home cooks about the importance of the very long caramelization of onions that carries Soupe à L’Oignon Gratinée — 2 ½ hours, at least, from start to finish.

Yet too often when I order this cheese-crowned darling in a restaurant, I want to weep into my ramekin at the sight of pale stringy onions that have yet to develop any of the rich, rustic sweetness of their caramelized cousins.

“The onions need a long, slow cooking in butter and oil, then a long, slow simmering in stock for them to develop the deep, rich flavour which characterizes a perfect brew,” writes Julia.

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