Tag Archives: Canada

Dinner at Brassaii

This past week I traveled to Toronto for work.  Since I was only there for roughly 48 hours I didn’t have much time to explore the city, but I still managed to have quite the delicious dinner at Brassaii.

dinner at brassaii platesWhen I traveled to Vancouver in January I had a couple of great dinners, so I was hoping that my experience in Toronto would be similar.  I had read mixed reviews about Brassaii, but saw that it was one of the hot spots for the Toronto International Film Festival, so I figured if the food was sub-par at least I’d maybe get some stargazing.

I have to say that my dinner at Brassaii exceeded all expectations.  The service was superb, the food was on point, and my coworkers and I were able to chat with executive chef Marcus Monteiro and pasty chef Mark Cheese which was a nice bonus.

After ordering a bottle of wine, we decided to start our evening off with a few appetizers to share amongst the table which included the crispy ribs, popcorn shrimp and the house cut-fries.

Dinner at brassaii ribsI normally don’t eat a lot of gluten because it doesn’t sit well with me, but crispy ribs were too good to pass up.  They were coated in panko breadcrumbs and came with a Moroccan glaze and mint chutney on the side.  The ribs were definitely a highlight of the night and I’m determined to recreate the Moroccan glaze at home.

Dinner at brassaii friesThe house cut-fries were also quite good, but really when are fries not good?  I enjoyed the parmigiano-reggiano sprinkled on top as well.  I didn’t get a shot of the shrimp, but it was tasty as well.

Dinner at brassaii tomato soupA couple of people ordered the tomato soup which I managed to steal a bite of.  It was creamy with a nice kick at the end.  One of the better tomato soup dishes that I have tried.

For my entree, I decided to go with the pan-seared halibut which came with cucumber stewed vegetables and micro-greens.

dinner at brassai halibutLast time I had fish in Canada I was quite impressed and this halibut did not disappoint.  It was light, flaky, and the fish melted in my mouth.  I LOVE cucumbers, so the cucumber stewed vegetables complimented the fish nicely.

dinner at brassaii mushroomsI also had a side order of wild mushrooms and garlic which was also very tasty.

My coworker got the chicken stuffed with breadcrumbs, sundried tomato and mint and came with a side of couscous.  The chicken was juicy and prepared perfectly.

dinner at brassaii chickenA couple other people got the striploin which I did not try, but I heard nothing but good things.

Then it was time for dessert.  Pastry chef Mark Cheese was kind enough to treat us to a dessert sampler platter which was out of this world.

dinner at brassaii dessertEverything was so good that it was hard to pick a favorite, but the standout for me was the Hazelnut Crunch made with roasted pear, hazelnuts, gianduja cream and espresso sauce.  Second favorite of the night was the carrot cake with yogurt cream, pistachio ice cream and valhrona blond dulcey.

If you ever find yourself in the Toronto area, be sure to check out Brassaii.  Chef Monteiro prides himself on updating his menu frequently, so every time you dine there you’ll get the best of what’s in season.

Thanks to the team at Brassaii for a great dining experience!  Hopefully I’ll be able to return again soon.

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Maple Roasted Almonds

When I was in Canada, we managed to take a quick trip to Granville Island and walked through their massive public market which had everything from freshly made pasta to fresh fruit and seafood.  One of the vendors was selling maple glazed nuts and I promptly bought a bag of pecans for the Englishman and then ate most of them before I got home.  So to make it up to him I made a batch of maple roasted almonds.

Maple Roasted AlmondsBut before we get to the maple roasted almonds, can we talk about maple syrup for a second?  Obviously Canada is known for their maple syrup, but I really didn’t believe there was that much of a taste difference until I experienced it for myself.  Turns out you can do maple syrup tastings at various shops in Vancouver where you are handed a little shot of maple syrup to try.  At the tasting I did, I tried all three of Canada’s maple syrup grades: #1 (very light syrup), #2 (amber syrup) and #3 (very dark amber syrup).  In my opinion, #1 was a bit too sweet, #2 was nice and full-bodied, and #3 was almost too rich in flavor.  I ended up purchasing a small container of #2 which is most similar to Grade B maple syrup in the US.

Maple Roasted Almonds Maple SyrupSo back to the maple roasted almonds.  Obviously I was going to use the Canadian maple syrup in this recipe, and since the syrup was rich enough, I just added some cinnamon, salt and a pinch of cayenne.  That’s it.  The cayenne adds just a small touch of heat without being too overpowering.

Of course this recipe will be just as delicious with regular maple syrup, but if you can get your hands on the good stuff from Canada it will taste that much better.  Pinky promise.

Maple Roasted Almonds Dish

Maple Roasted Almonds


1 cup raw almonds

1 tbsp maple syrup (use Grade B if you can)

1/2 tbsp cinnamon

1 tsp salt

2 tsp cayenne


Preheat your oven to 350F.

In a small bowl mix all your ingredients together, making sure all the almonds are evenly coated.

Maple Roasted Almonds Maple SyrupPlace your almonds in a baking dish and set in the oven for 15 minutes.

Maple Roasted Almonds TrayRemove almonds from oven and let cool.

I think these maple roasted almonds are the perfect snack when you want something sweet but not overly sweet.  Or for all your Superbowl fans (Go Broncos!) out there, this is recipe can easily be doubled or tripled for a crowd.

Maple Roasted Almonds AngleSo go ahead and make these.  Your taste buds will thank you.


I first discovered DAVIDS Tea during a trip to San Francisco last year.  I ordered the CocoMint tea, and after one sip was immediately in love.  Unfortunately DAVIDs Tea does not have any outposts in Southern California yet, so the only way I could get my tea fix was to order online.

DavidsTea MugAs luck would have it, I got to travel to Vancouver for work, which meant I could visit my favorite Canadian tea chain!  I made sure to leave a little extra room in my suitcase when I packed for my trip so I could take some favorites home with me.

Davids Tea LooseleafOne of the best things about popping into one of the DAVIDs Tea shops is how you can see and sample any of the teas before you buy them.  I love this “try before you buy” concept so you won’t be disappointed.  DAVIDs Tea also offers a bunch of seasonal flavors, and on this particular trip, I decided to try the Spiced Fig.

DavidsTea CupThe Spiced Fig is an herbal tea that has cranberries, almonds, dates and cloves.  It was the perfect tea to warm me right up while walking around chilly Vancouver.  Plus, with every cup of tea you buy at DAVIDs Tea, a cup is donated to a local charity which is awesome.

Since I had limited room in my suitcase, I knew I had to be quite selective when it came to what I wanted to buy to bring home.  My first choice was Mother’s Little Helper, an herbal tea which is supposed to help you sleep.

Davids Tea Mothers Little HelperThe Englishman first tried this tea in SF last year and swears by it’s magical properties (aka Valerian root).  When I tried the tea I found it to be very soothing and relaxing and I will say it has helped me drift off to sleep quite nicely in the evenings.

I smelled the tin for the Choconut Oolong and knew immediately I wanted to buy it.

DavidsTea Choconut OolongThis tea is perfect for chocolate lovers.  It has a strong cocoa taste and hints of hazelnut sprinkled throughout.  It’s not as strong caffeine wise as some of the black teas, but perfect for a late morning pick me up.  I definitely want to try turning this one into a tea latte with some almond milk.

The Englishman and I are big black tea drinkers, so for my last tea I got the Creme of Earl Grey which has a hint of vanilla.

DavidsTea Creme of Earl GreyI loved the vanilla twist on this Earl Grey classic.  It was a nice addition without being too overpowering.  This is the perfect tea to enjoy first thing in the morning.

If you do get a chance to stop into a DAVIDs Tea shop be sure to try one of their many tea varieties.  I’m already planning on ordering more (Spiced Fig for sure) to add to my collection.

What’s your favorite tea or tea shop?

Lupo Restaurant and Vinoteca

This past week I traveled to Vancouver for work.  And I immediately began researching where to eat like any good food blogger would do.  I had read some good things about Lupo Restaurant and Vinoteca, so I made dinner reservations before I even left California.

What I was not anticipating is what an adventure it would be to dine at Lupo.  Since Vancouver is a very walkable city, we set off on foot, bundled in our coats and scarves (because 35F is cold for us Californians) and relied on Google maps to lead us to Italian deliciousness.  Unfortunately the GPS and us got confused, and after walking in circles in the cold, we gave up on Lupo and ended up at Joe Fortes Seafood and Chop House, which was actually quite fortuitous since my grilled cod was delicious and my pear sorbet for dessert was out of this world.  Our missed dinner at Lupo was quickly forgotten.

Joe Fortes Pear SorbetThe next day, after a drive out to the countryside to attend the Canadian Motorcycle Show, we were once again faced with the dilemma of what to have for dinner.  As we drove back into the city, we suddenly spotted a sign for Lupo Restaurant and Vinoteca!  It was as if fate was telling us we had to dine there.  We quickly found a parking spot and the restaurant was kind enough to accommodate us and seat us at the bar even though we had no reservation.

One of the coolest things about Lupo is the layout – the restaurant is in a converted town home, so you have dining tables on two levels, and the bar is upstairs.  It’s a pretty cool concept if you ask me.

For our appetizers we ordered the Bufala Mozzarella and the Asparagus + Parmesan Fonduta.  I am NOT an asparagus fan at all so I was a bit skeptical.  (Also apologies in advance for the picture quality – I only had my point and shoot on this trip).

Lupo Restaurant AsparagusThe asparagus was excellent.  It was cooked perfectly so it still had a bit of crunch to it and wasn’t overly mushy.  I’d eat asparagus every day if it was prepared like that.

Lupo Restaurant Bufala MozzarellaThe Bufala Mozzarella was good and came with fresh tomatoes and olives.  This was also quite good, but I generally find that most Bufala Mozzarella dishes at restaurants are pretty good.

I really wanted the Short Rib Brasato for my main course, especially since it came braised in a Chianti reduction.  The original dish came with a side of polenta, but Lupo was kind enough to let me swap the polenta for rosemary fingerling potatoes.

Lupo restaurant braised short ribsThis dish was awesome.  The meat was tender and flavorful and cooked to perfection.  I WILL learn how to make short ribs this year because I could eat them everyday.

Lupo Restaurant Penne BologneseWe also ordered a Penne Bolognese which was topped with a delicious meat sauce.  All of the dishes are made fresh in-house and it shows.

For dessert, it was all about the Grand Mariner Creme Brulee and the homemade Chocolate Hazelnut and Cherry Gelato.

Lupo Restaurant Creme BruleeThe creme brulee was good but not mind-blowing.  The Grand Mariner flavor was almost too overpowering.

Lupo Restaurant GelatoOn the gelato front, I actually liked the cherry better than the chocolate hazelnut which was surprising.  The chocolate hazelnut was almost too rich, and had too much of an orange flavor to it.

If you ever make it up to Vancouver be sure to check out Lupo Restaurant and Vinoteca.  The food is delicious (and the menu changes seasonally) and reasonably priced.  Just don’t rely on Google maps to get you there.