The Drake Hotel - Toronto - Summer Menu Tasting

By: Alison Silveira

For years, The Drake Hotel on Queen West has been an eclectic hub for artists and musicians wishing to express themselves. When it comes to culinary creativity, executive chef, Alexandra Feswick at the Drake's Sky Yard restaurant showcases her unique talents with flair and finesse. I attended the Drake Hotel's summer party on the bustling, yet intimate patio at Sky Yard to sample the restaurant's newly launched summer menu. 

Feswick's summer menu features fresh and local seasonal items to tickle your taste buds. Her beets and blue cheese salad is an excellent way to begin any meal. Light and refreshing, the dish is comprised of Ontario Stilton, roasted beets, fresh raspberries, toasted sunflower seeds, watercress and flavourful avocado cream. 

Crowd-pleasing albacore tuna ceviche with avocado and charred scallion puree was a big hit. Perfect for sharing, scrumptious morsels of ceviche sat atop a perfectly crispy taro chip, which disappeared all too soon, but the sampling did not end there.

Seafood lovers will be in seventh heaven when they take a bite of the pan seared Ontario pickerel with fennel, arugula, pickled cipollini onions and white anchovies. Sourdough croutons gives the dish a nice crunch, while sherry vinaigrette complements the dish with an acidic bite.

A tortilla cradling creamed corn garnished with grilled peach relish is an interesting combination that had me craving more. While I usually enjoy tortilla chips with a piquant salsa, the sweet and salty combinations of corn, peach and chips were both surprising and delightful. 

Whet your whistle with Sky Yard's new Drink Well bottle service program. Take mixology into your own hands by creating classic Drake cocktails such as the dark 'n stormy, Moscow mule, mojito, gin 'n tonic and the old fashioned. A mixologist attended to our party, delivered the essential ingredients and taught us how to craft the perfect cocktail. Interactive and fun, the Drink Well program is a more relaxed approach to ordering bottle service and is perfect for birthday parties, a unique bachelorette party idea or simply trying something new. 

The evening ended on a sweet note with summery strawberry baklava. Baklava on its own is saccharinely sweet and I was concerned that the dessert would be overly sweetened with the added strawberries. However, it was love at first bite! Decadent and delicious, the strawberry filling was tart and the sweetness was cut with balsamic vinegar under layers of phyllo pastry.  

Take advantage of the balmy summer weather at Sky Yard and bask in the sun while enjoying a great evening of delicious food and drink. 

To learn more about Sky Yard, visit thedrakehotel.ca.

Burger Time at The Harbord Room

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By: Alison Silveira

Meat lovers rejoice! Today is National Burger Day. Toronto boasts many restaurants with excellent burgers. My favourite burger, in particular, can be found at The Harbord Room. The narrow and intimate restaurant prepares select international dishes from charred leek and eggplant borani with za'atar, pomegranate seeds and crispy pita ($9) to house-made rigatoni with spicy sausage ($17).

However, the dry-aged 'West Grey Farms' beef burger ($19) is the pièce de résistance. Served on a fresh egg bun with sharp cheddar and caramelized onions, the medium rare burger is juicy, tender and seasoned to perfection. The delectable burger is accompanied with crispy fries and tangy slaw. While it can be quite messy to eat, you won't be bothered, as here, taste is king! 

For dessert, try the sweet brown butter cake ($9) with house-made vanilla bean ice cream and panna cotta, which is perfect for sharing. Service and food are exceptional at The Harbord Room.

For more information, visit theharbordroom.com

A Festive Feast with Almond Breeze at Richmond Station!

A Festive Feast with Almond Breeze at Richmond Station!

I attended a festive holiday dinner prepared by Top Chef Canada winner, Carl Heinrich and his staff at his ever popular restaurant, Richmond Station. Having previously dined at Richmond Station to sample the famed stn. burger, I knew that whatever was on chef Heinrich's menu, I was sure to enjoy. Six sumptuous courses featured the delicious taste of Almond Breeze, the refreshing non-dairy beverage. I enjoy cooking with coconut milk and dairy products, but it never struck me to use Almond Breeze as a substitute for milk in my culinary endeavours. 

Chef Heinrich showed me just how versatile Almond Breeze can be, as he incorporated it in every one of his delicious courses and spoke about each individual dish. Innovative and unique, chef Heinrich's delicate Peking duck crepes featured spiced almonds and flavourful kimchi. 

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Smoque N Bones

Smoque N Bones

The Big Smoke has been set aflame with the opening of a new barbeque joint, Smoke N Bones. ChefAlex Rad and his kitchen staff meticulously prepare southern comfort food for hungry customers. I had the chance to sample a few of his culinary creations and was most impressed. 

To create the flavours of authentic barbeque, Chef Rad uses a Southern Pride smoker to infuse meat with hickory smoke. The aroma of the meat, smoked for well over 12 hours, is wildly intoxicating. Once I took my first bite of the succulent pork ribs, I was hooked. While the meat does not effortlessly fall of the bones, there is a lot to be said for its distinctive taste. Tender, juicy, and bursting with flavour, the hickory smoke completely penetrates the ribs, and the result is absolutely delicious. It is unnecessary to slather the accompanied barbeque sauce onto the meat, as the flavour is bold and perfect on its own. 

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Byblos

Byblos

Charles Khabouth and Hanif Harji are royal mavens in the hospitality industry. They have the Midas touch when it comes to the restaurant business, with the likes of Patria and Weslodge as their hip and happening hot spots on King West. Their newest venture, Byblos opened this month with great fanfare. Byblos' menu is the brainchild of executive chef, Stuart Cameron of both Patria and Weslodge fame. He has created unique Eastern Mediterranean infused fare and is mainly concerned with providing fresh ingredients and fine dining with flair. 

His Georgian inspired dish, the cheese acharuli with quail egg, brioche and za’atar is reminiscent of Turkish pide. The brioche base cradles brined feta and halloumi cheeses accompanied with spicy harissa. The dish does not possess a distinctive flavour, as all of the cheeses meld together and the textures are lost due to the small portion. Nevertheless, the little nibble was very delicious. 

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