Saturday, December 28, 2013

Kekou (Toronto)

My friend Lisa has never given me a bad recommendation, so when she raved about Kekou, a relatively new gelato place in Toronto, I already knew it would be solid. What's different about Kekou is that the flavors are unique and Asian-inspired, like Jasmine Tea, Peanut Sesame, Strawberry Lychee, and even Durian! Customers are free to sample any flavor they wish. In addition, everything is made fresh in house, with natural ingredients and is completely free of preservatives and additives.

Menu at Kekou (Toronto)
Menu at Kekou (changes daily)

Kekou (Toronto)

On my first visit to Kekou I tried the Peanut Sesame and Ginger Milk flavors. The very next day I brought my sister along and I tried the Black SesameVanilla Lotus, and Green Bean Coconut. Being the snob that I am when it comes to frozen treats, I have to say that I LOVED Kekou, not just for its exotic flavors but also the freshness of the gelato. For someone who has pooh-poohed the majority of ice cream and gelato shops, Kekou undeniably gets two thumbs up from me! The only drawback is that Kekou is closed for the winter season and will reopen in the spring, and I can't wait 'til I can go back there again!

Peanut Sesame and Ginger Milk Gelato at Kekou (Toronto)
Peanut Sesame and Ginger Milk Gelato

Black sesame, Vanilla Lotus, and Green Bean Coconut Gelato at Kekou (Toronto)
Black Sesame, Vanilla Lotus, and Green Bean Coconut Gelato

Restaurant Info:
Kekou Gelato House
13 Baldwin Street, Toronto, ON M5T 1L1
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Kekou Gelato House on Urbanspoon

Hibiscus Café (Toronto)

While in Toronto this past summer I met up with some friends in the Kensington Market area where we had lunch at Hibicus, a cozy cafe specializing in gluten-free, casual vegetarian fare.

The main feature at Hibicus are the buckwheat crêpes, with several mouthwatering options for savory and sweet crêpes. It wasn't an easy decision to choose just one, and in the end I decided to sample one with pears, pecan, and chutney, with spinach and cheese on the inside. It was as delicious as it sounds.

Buckwheat Crepe with Pear, Pecan, and Chutney at Hibiscus Cafe (Toronto)
Buckwheat Crêpe with Pears, Pecan, and Cutney

For dessert, Hibiscus offers cookies, brownies, and an interesting selection of non-diary ice cream with flavors like chai, ginger, and black sesame. Highly recommended!

Restaurant info:
Hibiscus Café
238 Augusta Ave, Toronto, ON
Web | Facebook

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Hibiscus on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Fishman Lobster Clubhouse Restaurant (Toronto)

My trip to Toronto late in the summer coincided with a visit from some relatives from overseas, and one night we all went out to Fishman Lobster Clubhouse Restaurant in the suburbs of Toronto, right on the border between Scarborough and Markham. Known for its giant lobsters and king crab, it hadn't dawned on me just how much of a buzz Fishman had generated until I witnessed the line to the restaurant going far out the door on this rainy Wednesday evening—and this was before Andrew Zimmern declared Fishman "the best Hong Kong-style seafood restaurant in North America." (Do check out Zimmern's article—especially the photo of the giant lobster tower!)

The restaurant space is large and its walls are lined with giant aquariums that housed the live giant lobsters, giant king crabs, and giant fish. All dishes are served family-style, of course. We had a lobster tower of our own, though not quite as giant as the one in Zimmern's photo. The lobster was served with tiny, crunchy fried fish. We also had a king crab that was served two different ways—in a fried rice and steamed with egg whites and salted eggs. Each guest is given a pair of disposable plastic gloves so we can annihilate our crustacean feed with a tiny bit of civility. We topped our feast off with a steamed bass and a chicken dish. In all, our meal that was meant for 3-4 people came to about $50 per person for our group of seven, and we took home tons of leftovers and with very satisfied bellies.

Best Hong Kong-style seafood restaurant in North America indeed.

Lobster Tower at Fishman (Toronto)
Lobster tower

Lobster at Fishman (Toronto)

Crunchy fish served with Lobster at Fishman (Toronto)
Tiny fish served with lobster

King Crab at Fishman (Toronto)
King Crab

Steamed Crab Meat with Egg White and Salted Egg at Fishman (Toronto)
Steamed crab with egg whites and salty egg

Crab Fried Rice at Fishman (Toronto)
Crab fried rice

Steamed Bass at Fishman (Toronto)
Steamed bass

Chicken at Fishman (Toronto)

Restaurant info:
Fishman Lobster Clubhouse Restaurant
680 Silver Star Boulevard, Toronto, ON M1V 4S5
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Fishman Lobster Clubhouse Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Monday, December 23, 2013

JaBistro (Toronto)

Late in the summer I took my semi-annual trip to Toronto. As usual, I ate my way around the city like nobody's business. On my very first night back home I had dinner with my family downtown at JaBistro. Although JaBistro is the sister restaurant to Guu Izakaya, Guu Sakabar, and Kinton Ramen, it is decidedly far more upscale in atmosphere.

My brother had been the only one in the group to have visited JaBistro before so he was made responsible for choosing the dishes for our family style feast, and as such I really can't name what all we ate that night, except to say that everything was fantastic. I will just let my copious photos (I did say "feast," didn't I?) do the rest of the talking.

JaBistro in Toronto

JaBistro in Toronto

JaBistro in Toronto

JaBistro in Toronto

JaBistro in Toronto

JaBistro in Toronto

JaBistro in Toronto

JaBistro in Toronto

JaBistro in Toronto

Restaurant Info:
222 Richmond St W, Toronto, ON M5V1W4
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JaBistro on Urbanspoon

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Smoked Salmon and Horseradish Pizza

Smoked Salmon and Horseradish Pizza
Smoked Salmon and Horseradish Pizza

The inspiration for this pizza came from a lobster pizza with spinach, scallion, and truffle aioli that we had at The Headkeeper, even though the only ingredient I had retained was the spinach. I specifically wanted to try a similar pizza with smoked salmon because I thought that it would pair well with a garlicky and tangy sauce, like the truffle aioli, but with the addition of horseradish. This is the result of said experiment.


Smoked salmon, 4 oz
Spinach, a handful or two
Horseradish garlic sauce (see below)
Mozzarella Cheese, about 1 cup
Capers, 1 tbsp
Pizza crust (recipe here)

Horseradish Garlic Sauce:
1/2 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon prepared horseradish
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
1/8 teaspoon dried dill weed
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

Mix all ingredients.


Preheat oven to 475˚F. Spread horseradish garlic sauce and mozzarella cheese on pizza dough and bake for 15 minutes. Once done, top with spinach, smoked salmon, and capers.

The Headkeeper (Greensburg)

The Headkeeper

I had heard that The Headkeeper in Greensburg is a great destination for craft beer lovers, so one day R. and I decided to check it out. From the outside, The Headkeeper looks like a slightly rundown warehouse, which took me a bit by surprise. Inside, it is quite spacious, and there is a very nice, large outdoor patio area as well.

Beer at Headkeeper
Magic Hat's Hicü and Bell's Oberon Ale

Having a good beer selection doesn't always translate into good food being served, so I wasn't quite sure what to expect of the food at The Headkeepers. We decided to order a couple of dishes that sounded fantastic: One was the feature of the day, which was a Ginger-Sory Marinated Blackened Mahi Mahi with a Sierra Nevada Citrus-Pan Sauce, while the other was a Stone Oven Pizza with Lobster, Spinach, and Scallion, drizzled with Truffle Aioli. The flavors of the sauce on the mahi mahi made up for the fact that the fish was a bit too well done, while the pizza was pretty much flawless, with a crust that is crispy on the bottom and chewy inside, and an aioli that had a nice garlicky sour cream taste to it.

Mahi Mahi at Headkeeper
Mahi Mahi ($11)

Lobster Pizza at Headkeeper
Lobster Pizza ($14)

Overall, we enjoyed our meal at The Headkeeper, and we are happy to have found a restaurant that serves both good beer and good food. 

Restaurant info:
618 S Main St, Greensburg, PA 15601
(724) 838-7439
Web | Facebook

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Headkeeper on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Steer and Wheel (Mobile)

The Steer and Wheel
The Steer & Wheel

It seems that awesome new food trucks just keep popping up in Pittsburgh! One relative newcomer that began roaming about Pittsburgh earlier this year is The Steer & Wheel, serving up high quality burgers made from freshly truck-ground, all-natural local beef and toasted buns sourced from a local bakery. I have enjoyed The Steer & Wheel's burgers on several occasions, some of which I share below, and I can vouch that the burgers are always juicy, flavorful, and with toppings that serve as a great complement. The menu changes often with the occasional special thrown in. Also, I love word plays, so The Steer & Wheel gets an extra point in my book for its clever name. :-)

Truly, this is some of the best burgers in town—and we have a lot of excellent burgers here in Pittsburgh. I only wish that I can have one anytime I wanted!

Curly's Truffle at The Steer and Wheel
Curly's Truffle
Truffle mayo, horseradish cheddar, tomato, and red onion,
on brioche

Bacon Squared at The Steer and Wheel
Bacon Squared
Balsamic bacon jam, chive cheddar, lettuce, tomato, and bacon, on an onion roll

Kelly's Burger at The Steer and Wheel
Kelly's Burger
Field greens, tomatoes, white cheddar, grain mustard, on an English muffin

Truck Info:
The Steer & Wheel
Web | Facebook | Twitter

Steer and Wheel on Urbanspoon

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Foodie Excursions in Cincinnati, OH

I visited Cincinnati for a couple of days during the summer. I have a friend who lives there, and he has the same kind of love and enthusiasm for his adopted hometown as I do Pittsburgh, so it was about time I went and checked out the city for myself.

On my first night, we went to Nada, a trendy downtown joint, for Mexican and margaritas. I had heard good things about Nada before so I was looking forward to trying it out. My friend and I split two orders of tacos: shrimp and pork belly and both were fantastic.

Pork Belly Tacos at Nada (Cincinnati)
Pork Belly Tacos

Shrimp Tacos at Nada (Cincinnati)
Shrimp Tacos

On my second night we dined at Nada's sister restaurant, Boca, which happens to be my friend's favorite restaurant and had recently relocated to its current downtown space, right next to Nada. I somewhat wish I had taken photos of the interior of Boca because it is elegant and luxurious with an old-world charm (you can find some professional photos here). Over a bottle of fancy wine, my friend and I split the signature Caramelized Brussels Sprouts, topped with scallops, which were nicely done. I also had the Mediterranean Sea Bass, served with a bouillabaisse sauce, braised leeks, and mussels. The sea bass itself was pan roasted to crispy goodness. The service at Boca, like its food, was also top-notch.

Caramelized Brussels Sprouts at Boca (Cincinnati)
Caramelized Brussels Sprouts

Mediterranean Sea Bass at Boca (Cincinnati)
Mediterranean Sea Bass

Before leaving Cincinnati, I made a stop at Findlay Market, an awesome public market in Over-the-Rhine. There, I found my favorite place in Cincinnati: Colonel De Gourmet Herbs and Spices. Talk about a kid in a candy shop! Colonel De carries an impressive (500+!) collection of spices, herbs, blends, rubs, salts, and more. Many of these products I have never even heard of, and some are the shop's own creations. The Colonel himself was there—great guy, by the way—and I spoke with him for some time about recipe ideas. I only picked up a handful of items that I knew I could use, but I would really love to try out some of his specialty spices sometime in my recipes, once I figure out how to use them. Luckily, Colonel De offers online shopping.

Colonel De (Cincinnati)
Colonel De

Colonel De (Cincinnati)
Colonel De

Colonel De (Cincinnati)
Colonel De

All in all, it was a lovely visit to Cincinnati with good food, good company, and a really good find!

Nada on Urbanspoon Boca on Urbanspoon

Saturday, November 23, 2013

More Foodie Excursions in Columbus, OH

Well hello, blog. Long time, no see.

It's been awhile since I've had a single moment to catch up on my blog! Last I left you, I was just beginning to document my trip to Columbus over the summer. I thought I'd summarize the rest in this post.

As mentioned previously, my "foodie" goal during this trip was to hit up as many of my favorites in Columbus as possible, starting with Jeni's and Northstar Café.

On my second day in town I got to meet up with a friend at Cap City Diner in Grandview, probably the most casual of the Cameron Mitchell dynasty of restaurants in Columbus. (Even then, it is not that casual.) The decor has a "retro" atmosphere though the food is a combination of classic and modern flavors. I had the Ponzu Glazed Salmon and a few bites of my friend's fiancé's 24K Carrot Cake which he swore is the best thing ever. It was, indeed, quite good.

Ponzu Glazed Salmon at Cap City Diner (Columbus)
Ponzu Glazed Salmon

24K Carrot Cake at Cap City Diner (Columbus)
24K Carrot Cake

I also made sure to pay a visit to The Refectory, a fine-dine restaurant housed in a former church that serves modern French cuisine. I remember being told when I first moved to Columbus that The Refectory was one of the fanciest and best restaurants in town. Living under fairly meager means at the time, it took me six years to finally make it there on a special occasion. I wanted to make it back there this trip; my tastebuds are glad I did.

The Refectory (Columbus)
The Refectory

Scarborough Pear at Refectory (Columbus)
Scarborough Pear

Complimentary Greens at Refectory (Columbus)
Complimentary Mixed Greens with Maple Syrup

Duck at Refectory (Columbus)
Duck served with candied fruits, sage, scalloped potatoes, bacon-wrapped
haricot vert topped with carrot slices and beets

Finally, I squeezed in a meal at Spagio in the heart of Grandview, one of my go-to spots when I used to live close by. Part of Spagio's appeal is its cozy wine lounge which is always a great "grown-up" place to grab a drink with friends. I did not take advantage of the wine bar this time around as I was about to embark on a long drive, but what I did take advantage of was the outdoor patio on this warm summer day, the Seafood Stew and the reminiscing of the "good old days" more than compensating for the lack of alcohol.

Seafood Stew at Spagio (Columbus)
Seafood Stew

Restaurant Info:

Cap City Fine Diner and Bar on UrbanspoonThe Refectory Restaurant and Bistro on UrbanspoonSpagio on Urbanspoon