25 June 2010

the big ragu: an Italian Heavenly Delight!

What a delightful, unexpected surprise. I had no clue what to expect, but I knew once again, I had to trust another person's judgement. With an empty stomach and open mind, off to the Big Ragu it was. Greeted with a smile from the ├╝ber polite and courteous waitresses. Promptly after we were seated and given our menus, a basket of fresh, warm bread accompanied with balsamic vinegar & oil for dipping appears.

When asked what appetizer we would like, I merely shrugged, not knowing what was good, and my boyfriend simply said two words: Magic Mushrooms. I just sat there wondering exactly what that meant--all I could think of at the sound of that was that it sounded a bit like something out of a Mario game! Thankfully, my question got answered minutes later--and I also found out why the dish has its name as I dug in and savoured every bite I could.

The combination of the wine reduction sauce, and peppery baby arugula salad in addition to the portobello & mushroom caps filled with soft, melting goat’s cheese just rounds out all the flavours nicely. Believe me, if I could've, I honestly would have ordered another plate just for myself--despite the fact that it would another $12 added to the bill!

The pear bellini (a perfect combination of pear nectar & Prosecco) compliments the food nicely, and co-owner Carmine is one of those chefs who loves to come out and chat with the customers! Honestly, go hungry, leave happy, full, want more...and always go on an empty stomach with an open mind, as you never know what might happen.

A heavenly delight, I love this place to pieces and I’m still, to this day insanely grateful I’ve had the chance to go. Would I return there in a heartbeat? Absolutely!

Suffice to say, it was the best Christmas gift I received and a nice way to bond before he had to return to his CF base.

(originally written 5 May, 2010 ©)

Aroma Espresso Bar: a haven for foodies & coffee addicts

Aroma Espresso Bar: a haven for coffee addicts & foodies 10:45 AM | 15 June, 2010 © When I first spotted Aroma Espresso Bar at the Promenade Mall location (probably around April), I noticed that the pricing for the food was probably more than what I’d be willing to pay for, but I really needed a coffee break at that time. First things I noticed: freshly baked loaves of bread, and the sound of espresso being freshly ground and brewed as it should be--not the way they brew espresso at Starbucks or Second Cup for that matter--they grind the old school way! I also love how everything is absolutely immaculate and the staff are courteous & professional, knowing that a customer’s needs are important. Milk for their lattes & cappucinos are done with whole milk (unless specified otherwise), allowing for a richer, creamier taste; poured over the full bodied espresso with care and finesse. I also have to admit that having a dispenser containing water with lemons and plastic cups on a tray indicating to help yourself is a fantastic idea--it’ll definitely keep you hydrated while you wait for your order to be filled. There is no doubt that the ambience & atmosphere allows you to know that it’s a more upscale cafe, with a lot of healthy food choices all prepared to order. I haven’t managed to sample any of their food, but based on my experience in the Hospitality industry (I do cook, you know!), my nose doesn’t lie when it smells something great that also looks incredibly appetizing. As I finish writing this from their Bathurst & Rutherford location (9320 Rutherford Road), I have to say that Aroma Espresso Bar is a real delight and in the last 7 (almost 8) years, I never thought I’d find a place that I love just as much as Starbucks & Second Cup for satisfying my coffee fix.

the best things i ever ate (pt.1)

Best things I’ve Ever Ate, why & where to get it (part 1) One of the best things I ever ate is the Magic Mushrooms appetizer at the Big Ragu (1338 Landsdowne Ave, near St. Clair West). I must say that the flavours blend so well, it's crazy--and I kid you not, you WILL want more--despite the fact you'll add another $12 to your bill. The combination of the wine reduction sauce, soft, oozing goat cheese, portobello & button mushrooms and baby arugula salad just brings it HOME...and believe me, if i could've, i honestly would have ordered another plate just for myself! Another one of my favourite dishes happens to be quinoa with sauteed green beans, red bell peppers, onions and topped with some roasted rainbow trout that I made myself. The flavours work quite well and really don’t need a lot of seasoning, and in this context, the flavours simply shine individually and work cohesively. I also have to admit, it does remind me slightly of the utterly fabulous dish from the Pickle Barrel: a panko crusted basa fillet that came with a mango salsa along with cousous filled with dried fruit & nuts: simple, clean delicious flavours that worked well together...and tasted better with a glass of Pinot Grigio wine (the waiter’s pick). One of the best things I’ve eaten in terms of desserts was when I went to Cora’s on June 22, 2010 for a rather late brunch and shared half of a chocolate-banana treat with my friend: a crepe stuffed with nutella, bananas, and topped with icing, chocolate drizzle & a strawberry. Sinfully delicious, and definitely not ideal if you’re attempting to keep the weight down, but all the same: worth trying & worth every penny!