Monday, October 31, 2011

Toronto: FRANK at the AGO

art, overeasy
:Dundas and Beverley:

I love Frank Gehry.  He's on my list of people who amaze me. 
I also love Frank Newjiyen.  He's on my list of people who exasperate me.

But we're here to talk about Frank, all caps.  It's inside the AGO and presents exactly as you would imagine.  A contemporary space that's inviting and chic with lots of natural light and modern decor.  I particularly loved the chairs.  They were comfortable and they swivel.  

Frank takes reservations, and that is a bonus considering there are very few places in Toronto that will take reservations for brunch (Boiler House brunch buffet and Hot House brunch buffet are two others. Both of which I love, for the endless food and the live jazz.)

Yesterday afternoon a group of my favouritest friends joined me downtown.  They're the type who don't question the cost of food because they enjoy quality.  Always being "cheap" is a necessity when you're in your 20s.  Always being "cheap" in your 30s is just sad.  My dad once told me (because he thought I was a little too frugal) that a person who is selectively cheap is wise, but those that are wholly cheap are tasteless beggars.  He then followed it up with, "'so you a beggar?'"  Asian sarcasm is always so much more intense.

It's always special when I get a chance to catch up with my favourites.  It puts me in a good mood.  It didn't hurt that it was a lovely fall Sunday.  

Here's our beautiful chow down. 

AGO signature black currant scones
Avec vanilla crème fraîche and housemade preserves
The scones were good, but to be frank, no one has yet to hold a candle to Windsor Arms'.

Minnie had the Croque Madamme.  I am a huge fan of the croque sandwiches, so I took a bite.  It was well-made, but I thought the mustard seed mornay sauce was overpowering.  It might have been better had I not been comparing it to The BEST Croque Monsieur I had in Miami.  Oh, I miss that Miami.

I had the corned beef, bacon and mixed mushroom hash with yukon gold& sweet potatoes, a poached egg, and mushroom jus.  My egg was cooked perfectly.  My buddy's wasn't.  It happens.  Overall, it was delicious.  Smoky and full-flavoured with delicious corned beef and crispy, chewy bacon pieces.

Caveat: The portion was small, especially compared to everyone else's. I felt jipped.

A few people got the braised beef brisket sandwich on red fife sourdough. The only complaint seemed to be the fattiness of the beef.  Brisket is usually a fattier cut, but there seemed to be much more fat than usual.  Note that the ketchup was different.  We tasted it several times, and the general consensus was that there were beets in there.  Beets, neat.
The beef brisket burger smelled amazing.  I think it might have been the apple wood smoked cheddar.  Aerie and her man liked it, but she prefered the flavours of the brisket sandwich. 
And finally, the eggs benedict, because one rarely goes to brunch without someone ordering a benedict.  It was your basic poached eggs, buttermilk biscuits, pemeal bacon and hollandaise sauce. Not outstanding, but good.

The dishes were good.  Nothing was spectacular, and everyone took issue with something - either the portion was too small, it was slightly salty, or a bit too fatty, etc.  

But In the end, we'd all go back.  Frank is a really great space and more than made up for the limitations of its dishes, especially because overall, the food was good and there is nothing wrong with good.
FRANK on Urbanspoon

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Hand Relief by Aveda

help your hands, help a cause
:Pricey at $30:

There is no sense in spending a lot of money on hand creams...

Unless they're worth every penny.  3,000 pennies to be exact.

My sister and I stumbled upon this; it's one of Aveda's best sellers and I can describe it in a few short words: luxurious with an appealing delicate citrus scent.  Soft, not greasy. Smooth, not slippery.

Your hands will thank you. 

If you buy it now, you also help breast cancer research.  October is breast cancer awareness month.

Just because there are only three days left, doesn't mean you shouldn't stay informed.  Being aware means being effective.  Learn more.

Love it.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Montreal: Bremner Restaurant

as you wish
:Old Montreal:


If Hughes' restaurants were women, Garde would be a red-lipped blonde wearing a Mackage leather jacket toting a Louis Vuitton; Le Bremner would be the fresh-faced brunette in skinny jeans, holding a Chanel 2.55.  It's just how I see things.

If the analogy was lost on you...I'll be more explicit: Garde is a trendy, loud and slightly chaotic hipster place, while Bremner is more of a reclusive bistro with a classy but comfortable feel.  Both play groovy tunes.  Both have cute guys, although Bremner's staff had more personality, which makes you want to stay a while and flirt a little.

If you recall, I didn’t LOVE Garde, I liked her. 

I LOVED Bremner.  Stop here if you wish, but for you inquiring minds, keep reading.

Yes, I saw Hughes. That’s right, he works his line. It was a nice surprise because I can count the number of times I’ve actually seen celebrity chefs in their restaurant, working, tasting, and schmoozing. Two. Chuck was the second.

Bremner opened in July and it’s still bustling. Noteworthy mentions include the terrasse.  I took a quite peek during a bathroom break, and it's gorgeous. The cocktails, mixology wonders not bar mixes, were amazing. (Specifically the pampelmouse one, or O-juice, if you will.  It was a balanced mix of vodka, sake, mint, fresh grapefruit and some other stuff.  It was O good, it was addictive.)

The menu is divided into seven categories: Chilled Items, From Outside, Bread & Cheese, From the Stovetop, From the Broiler, Vegetables, and Dessert. Order, as you wish.

My sister and I started with the kimchi snow crab because its reputation preceded our visit. Now, you should know that we are kimchi experts. So we were both pleasantly surprised that this dish wasn’t a wishy-washy fusion concoction of pickled cabbage and spices calling itself kimchi. The flavours were actually reminiscent of actual kimchi. The dish was almost a perfect hit, but for the rice cracker/cookie. It was too big.  I think (emphasis on think) I know what Hughes was trying to replicate here, a Korean dish called norengie. Norengie is the rice crust at the bottom of a stone bowl pot. If you add a little water or tea it releases the rice and you eat it.  My unsolicited advice to Hughes would be to make the cracker half the thickness because conceptually I agree that the delicate snow crab needs a chewy/crunchy counterpart.

Like an exotic tickle
The culinary adventure continued with lamb meatballs that were soft and meaty with rich flavours:

Like a warm hug

The spicy bass with edamame was a favourite.  It was delicate and deep - that's the only way I can describe it.  There was so much going on in my mouth and it was all wonderful:

Like a symphony of fire
Another one of my favourites was grilled asparagus with poached egg.  There was a lot going on on this plate and I liked it.  Together it worked.  Separate, not so sure.

Like a mishmash song on Glee - unexpected harmony
Dinner, however, ended on a sad note. Doughnuts were implicated (I am aware I have a problem with doughnuts.  I'm in the contemplation stage of seeking help).

Due to my obsession with doughnuts, you can only imagine how crushed I was to learn they sold out.  My poor sister, I whined about it for a good ten minutes, and pouted for another five.  Then, after letting out le sigh of tout sighs. I got over it and resolved to go back on my next visit. 

But listen Hughes…I live in Toronto. If you stumble across this review and feel compelled to ship me some doughnuts, why, you'd be the Wesley to my Buttercup.

I won't hold my breath, but trust me when I say, I usually get what I want, as I wish.
Le Bremner on Urbanspoon

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Toronto: Buca

bright alley
:King West:

I had to interrupt my Montreal posts to share today’s lunch, but not to worry, I’ll be back tomorrow with Le Bremner…ooooh, ahhhhh...I know. 

I can say at this point that I seem to be on an ‘eat at unidentifiable’ restaurant phase. Last Saturday was Bremner (see tomorrow’s post), today was Buca. If you’re not looking for it, you will miss it. It’s next to Cheval. In fact, they share the same alleyway.

Tomorrow is a very special day, it’s Cracker’s birthday! So she and I met for lunch at Buca. She knows it well because she used to work around the corner from it. I, on the other hand, work up in Yorkville. How’d I make that work you wonder? Easy, I took a 3-hour lunch. The things I do for the friends I love.

Cracker and I are like two hungry hippos chilling in a swamp. We like to chat, eat, chat, eat some more, and then linger until it’s time to return to our separate areas to graze. That usually means the server has to come by a few times before we stop talking and look at the menu. It’s how the hippest hippos hang.

Buca was exactly what I thought it would be. Very, Cracker. Yes, she’s also an adjective. She knows design and seems to gravitate towards raw materials, clean spaces and simple details. Buca seemingly shares this vision.

Love this light fixture.
It used to be boiler house and you can still see it. It’s very industrial with huge ceilings. It’s actually basement level but they’ve opened it up so that a lot of light can shine through.
The lunch menu was pretty extensive, and priced average for King West. I hear they vary their lunch menu, although there are few constants, such as the rosemary, garlic bread knots:

Tasty adorable bumpkins
Service was slow to start, but got stellar and stayed that way throughout our long lunch.  It was long because as I indicated earlier, we like to chat.

Olive Ascolane – fried olives stuffed with lamb sausage

Crunchy, salty and tangy
Pizza, sadly, I don’t remember what this was called, but it had smoked buffalo cheese, chilies, and the day’s cured meats

Spicy, salty, and smoky

Bigoli – Homemade pasta with duck egg and a duck ragù with mascarpone and basil

OMG. I loved this dish. The portion is small, but lest we forget, we on King West.
Course if it were a little bigger, I would say I superloved it.
And because hippos like sweets, espresso and dessert:

Left - Pannacota | Right - Pumpkin Tart
Pannacotta with kiwi berries. KIWI BERRIES?!?! I Googled it because I’ve never heard of such a thing, much less tasted such a thing. I had to know more. Their proper term is actinidia arguta, or hard kiwi. Apparently it is native to Korea (amongst other countries). They are really delicious, and I think I love them.

It was a proper pannacotta. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve ordered it at a restaurant and been served messed up pudding. This was creamy, delicately flavoured and delicious.

The tart tasted exactly how it smelled.  Sweet gelati, maple syrup and pistachios added textures and layers to the delicate tart and pumpkin filling.

If I had to choose the best dish of the day, I would go with the bigoli and the pannacotta.  The bread knots are also well-known but I think I want to try the pig ears next time. Word of warning, Buca doesn’t serve complimentary bread, which may be why people like the knots so much. If you have to pay for bread, why not getting something more creative.

Cracker’s probably grazing at home now, I’m semi-grazing at work, but I'm smiling. A well fed hippo is a happy hippo.

Buca on Urbanspoon

Montreal: Au Pain Perdu aka Le Pistou Déjeuner

cute name, so why then, are there two?

Lost Bread.  Cute right?  It's also called Le Pistou Déjeuner.  As to why? Your guess is as good as mine.  I'm sure Google, Yahoo or Bing knows?  It's irrelevant to my review.

This was my last brunch before I headed back to Toronto.  It was good.  It wasn't top tier, but I would likely go again.

There was quite a long line, but it was all one party, so we got seated fairly quickly, 5 minutes in fact.

Au Pain Perdu is a casual dive that serves up your usual brunch fare - benedicts, eggs plus, pancakes, etc.  

I opted for the classic eggs benedict (missed it because Saturday I ate Le Cartet), while my sister had the two eggs plus bacon, ham, and sausage.  My benedict was good, although my hollandaise was thick enough that I could have molded little figurines.  It looked as if they had put the plate under a salamander or something because my hollandaise had a top crust.

My sister's was what you'd expect:

Looks very blase doesn't it? It sort of was.
It was greasy spoon brunch.  Perfect for a jeans and T Sunday.

Le Pistou Déjeuner(au pain perdu) on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Montreal: Le Cartet

the vogue-ified general store
:Old Montreal:

When I walked into Le Cartet I thought I was in a country general store, if said store was in a trendy New York burrow. It's got a Dean and Deluca feel, without the big box shadow. 

The front area is a take-out coffee bar meets mini market whose shelves are filled with fancy preserves, designer chocolates, specialty teas, and a plethora of other goods as well as a cooler of fresh salads, sandwiches and pastas. 

The rest is the restaurant.

My sister and I loved the interior, right down to the signage.  The communal tables and open-window kitchen gave the place a laidback vibe, while the decor was classy and modern.  I loved the little details - fresh fall flowers and little pumpkins.  The buckets of natural light make it feel like the perfect brunch spot.

The tables are pretty close together, but there's enough room that you don't feel like you're being invaded. 

The menu isn't extensive, but you should be able to find something you like.  Traditional items are notably missing, such as benedicts and omlettes, but it's okay to embrace change once in a while.

Their specials (all about $15) come with coffee and juice.  Love that.

I had the Brunch des Cantons - their version of the big breakfast - served in a cast iron pan.  Love that.

It had ham, sausage, bacon, scrambled eggs, beans, and potatoes, as well as a side plate of bread and fruit.  Three meats. Love that.

My sister had the Toasta Mixta, a portuguese grilled egg sandwich with ham, brie, onions and mustard.  Tasted like our mom's egg sandwich.  Love that.

Brunch is only served Saturday and Sunday from 9:00 a to 3:30 pm.  That's a narrow window, especially for a big stomach.  But do as I do, suck it in.

Le Cartet on Urbanspoon

Lip Balm #1 by Kiehl’s

:Moderate at $12:

Ten bucks and change for this little wonder:

Now, I've always liked the balm but I'll admit that I only pick up the scented tube here and there.  I posted way back when, little did I know that this balm has healing properties.

My love for Kiehl's doesn't hold a candle to my sister's.  She loves it.  In fact, it may be the longest relationship she's been in.  She's not going to like that joke, but it's not like she can beat me up.  We don't live in the same city.  Plus, I'm about to give her props. 

This past Friday I woke up with a bad case of chapped lips.  How bad?  Ugly bad.

It's rare, but this was my third bout with the pestering condition.  I'm not sure what caused it but my lips were in a lot of pain, and they looked it.  I felt ugly, but I compensated by wearing a really cute outfit.  Before heading out of town to Montreal, in an act of desperation, I ran to Shopper's and picked up some Blistex.
Fastforward a couple hours and I'm in Montreal.  Blistex in tow.  My sister sees me pull out the dark blue tub and gasps.  She then does one of those rolling eye huffs.  Uh oh, I know she's got something to say.  So I wait for it.
"What are you doing?  Is that Blistex?  Don't use Blistex.  It's bad for you.  It's got chemicals.  Stop."

I'm a little stunned.  Her brows are furrowed, she's serious.  I put on my puppy eyes and say, "well, what am I supposed to do...look (points to lips)...gross...".  She gives me another eye roll and says, "not Blistex.  Kiehl's".

Wow, that's it?  Kiehl's.

I attacked her tub, until we got downtown.  Then I bought my own and attacked it. 

That all happened three days ago. 

My chapped lips you ask?  GONE.  My lips are back to their natural colour and are ubersoft.  Like, kiss me now soft.

My tub?  I'm still attacking it. 

Still love it.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Montreal: Wished for...Got...

a necessary loophole
This is not a bad review.  This is a cautionary tale: Sometimes when we wish for something and settle for something else, it can get real ugly. 

My sister, her friend, Greenthumbs, and I wanted to go to Le Quartier Général.  Like bad. But they were booked.  We didn't know they only had two seatings.  That means book early.

So instead, my sister looked on Urbanspoon and found Chez Victoire Bistro de Quartier on Urbanspoon

It looked promising.

I didn't want to waste such a pretty picture of such a misunderstood ingredient:
Sweetbreads...neither sweet, nor bread
Looks good right?  The scallops too.
Looks are deceiving.
I will only say that I vehemently disagree with the (as of today's date) 90% rating on Urbanspoon.

I acknowledge that I  missed the "fine print" (and there was a sh*t load of fine print) as regards their late night $20 menu.  Which meant that it cost us about $60 per person, with one cocktail.

That brought us to ugly.

And that is why, this:
Montreal Restaurant - Le Quartier Général


is still on my wish list for my next trip to Montreal.

UPDATE: No longer on my wish list.  It was everything I wished for and more.  So much more.

Friday, October 21, 2011

High Frequency Mascara by Kat Von D

:Status update - It's complicated:

Well, not really, this mascara is crap.

But I interrupt this review for the following PSA:

TGIF errrrbody!!!  I'm off to see the wizard, the wonderful wizard of cois, as in Quebecois.  Oui, I am in Montreal this weekend and have a date with Chuck Hughes' new restaurant.  What I would give to see him there...eye candy with every bite.  Shiver me timbers.

Now back to your regularly scheduled programming...


One cannot get this specific Kat D mascara anymore.  I picked mine up in August and even then, I had a feeling.

Why am I bothering to post?  Because I think there is a lesson to be learned...

Even in the over-saturated, money-driven world of beauty, there are times a product is so bad it gets pulled.  At least this is my unsubstantiated hypothesis.

Read for yourself at Sephora, the exclusive carrier of Kat Von D: Reviews

It's fun if you just want to play - like paint for your lashes - but I'm a need-commitment get-invested kind of gal.  I need more substance than show.

And in the interest of full disclosure, I can't stand Kat Von D.  As the 16 year old version of myself would say, "ewwwwww, she's like totally gross, low class and nastyyyy". 

Dislike it.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Baked Bronzer by Urban Decay

:Pricey at $31:
Old packaging
Urban Decay recently gave the packaging a slight overhaul.  It now comes in a "Moroccan-inspired moon-and-stars motif".  New exterior, same interior.

When it comes to bronzer I only ask for two things: Streak-free application and toned-down colour because bronzer only works when you can't see where the work begins.

They call it baked because it literally is.  The process evidently maintains the integrity of the microfine texture of the powder. 

The true test will come in the form of my sister's stamp of approval.  She's the bronzer expert, I'm just learning.

Like it.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Blush by LORAC

:Pricey at $26:
what a peach

The reviews rated this blush high.  So do I.

It's satiny, subtle and void of any synthetics.  Super.

Of the six colours I opted for peach.  I always seem drawn to it - must have started when I first met Georgia.

Oh peaches.

Love it.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Sugar Lip Gloss by fresh

baby, baby, baby 
:Pricey at $21:

I like fresh.  They're fun.  Their bodycare includes sake and rice, brown sugar, sugar and lemon.  Mmm, tasty.

They also do make-up but I wouldn't call them frontrunners.  I needed new lip gloss so here I am.  It's a little too sticky but conditions well.  The colours are perfectly subtle and they shimmer but not sparkle, because sparkles are for Tinkerbelle.  Are you Tinkerbelle?  I didn't think so.

Warning.  Extreme close up of pout.

Top: Bare | Bottom: Sugar Baby
I read a lot of beauty blogs and fashion mags and you know what I learned?  Lip shots are as uncomfortable as T&A.  Truly...they're awkward, slightly lewd, and too personal.

That's why I gave you a half-pout.  It allows me to maintain my dignity.

I feel so exposed.

But I dig the gloss so I took one for the team.

Like it.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Biosource HydraMineral Lotion by Biotherm

:Pricey at $30: ain't just for your nose

I have been remiss.  But I have a legitimate excuse.  I've been busy.  For real.

I've also been stockpiling a huge collection of products.  Oh, it's on. 

For now, here's a classic that I recently picked up for ma soeur.  Remember how I said when she really loves something, she continues to use it.  Decades can pass and girl is still all over it.

Supple radiant skin.
Active toning water to cleanse your skin, without that tight feeling.  (I don't like that feeling.  I get that feeling from Bioré astringent.  Again, Bioré is not my friend.)

It reminds me a lot of the asian products I'm so fond of.  It's light, delicately scented and moisturizing.  

I suppose my sister likes it for the balancing properties of zinc. 

Like it.