Radio Boka

I just got back from my whirlwind of a trip two days ago (stay tuned for some upcoming travel blogs – Italy, Greece & San Francisco!!) and I’m already missing Europe! I miss it’s amazing wine, food & people of course. I was thus very excited to have been invited by the iYellow Wine Club in Toronto to the launch of the brand new Spanish Tempranillo wine called Radio Boka. It’s not a trip back to Europe, but it made me feel like I was still there for a split second! And who says wine tasting, also says cheese, so I was well served!

It was cool to firstly discover iYellow’s great space in downtown Toronto. They’re up to some really great things; organizing wine events and tastings for people across the city of Toronto. They also represent a handful of really great wine brands from all over the world. If you’d love to know more about wine culture and want to build up your wine knowledge, I highly recommend checking them out.

It was great to taste a brand new label of wine, which will soon be available at the LCBO. Radio Boka is from Valencia and offers a red, white and rosé wine, all three priced around the $10 mark. It has a cool “newschool” label design, something that can definitely appeal to the 18-35 year-olds. It was lovely to have the wine producer from Spain be on hand at the event to talk to everyone about his product, his winery, etc.

If you’re looking for wine to share with friends this summer around a BBQ, a dinner or to bring to a party, Radio Boka could be a new alternative!

Salud!

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ICI Bistro

A few weeks ago, Offner and I finally got a table at ICI Bistro. We had wanted to go check out the place but it was always booked every time we had tried to make a reservation. So if after reading this blog, you’re dying to try it out, make sure you plan your visit in advance!

The Bistro is located on Harbord St.  just at the corner of Manning St.. There aren’t that many restaurants in the area but I think that when a restaurant is good, it doesn’t really matter where it’s located, people will go to it. And ICI Bistro was sure worth the trek!

The first thing that appealed to me about this place was their slogan: “Food, Wines & Happy People Is What We Are Most Passionate About At ICI“. Sounds perfect!

We received a warm welcome when we arrived at the restaurant. The host took our coats, made sure we had everything we needed. Because there aren’t too many tables in the place (there are like 6 or 7) we opted to sit at the small bar, which gave us a really nice view of the room. The decor was simple but really nice. The restaurant felt extremely cozy. I loved their slightly elevated open kitchen concept.

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We started off with a nice bottle of wine from their extensive wine list. We opted for a French wine since we were in a French inspired bistro. We noticed that a lot of the staff were also either from France or from Quebec and as a result spoke both French and English. As we were picking out our meals, the waiter brought us a really yummy appetizer on the house, a sort of fine rice and cheese ball.

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We started off our meal with a plate of cheese. It was $18 for a selection of 3. We opted for double that just so that we could get as many different cheeses as possible. The cheese portion was great for the price and the cheese were all different and extremely tasty. The chef even came over to personally bring us a plate of fruit, nuts and jams to accompany the cheese we had ordered.

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While we were waiting for our mains, the server came over and offered us some homemade gnocchi on the house in order to tie us over before the mains arrived. I must say I was REALLY impressed by the quality of the service. Little things like that go a long way in my opinion. Plus the gnocchi melted in my mouth!

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By the time our mains arrived, I was almost full! Though they don’t have a big vegetarian selection (1 out of 11 dinner choices), I was told that the chef could always prepare something special for me if ever I didn’t like what they had on the menu. I opted for their homemade patties with cheese, fresh salad, pesto and homemade sauce and my boyfriend the duck magret. His said his was pure bliss! Mine was also very delicate and flavored perfectly. The chef even came by again during our meal to make sure everything was ok and asked us if we had liked everything. A very nice gesture!

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All in all, our experience at ICI Bistro was delightful. There aren’t too many restaurants in the city that have served us that well and that are so in tune with what their clients want. The staff at ICI made sure that we were fully satisfied with our meal.

Looking forward to returning very soon!

 

Bar Isabel

Last week, one of my friends and I decided to hit up Bar Isabel, a new restaurant and bar on College street just east of Ossington in Toronto. I’ve been hearing lot’s of great things about the place from my friend @jbsmith. Her boyfriend Josh is responsible for all the great drink creations there.

We arrived just around opening time (6pm) on a Wednesday and there was already people lining up to get in. Since we didn’t have time to stay for a full meal, we opted for some drinks and appetizers. What I really liked from the get-go, was everyone’s welcoming and friendly attitude. The place was nicely decorated. The wood and colored lights gave a very homy feel to the place. Only a few minutes after we sat down, Bar Isabel was already packed!

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The menu was simple but very well divided. They had a big choice of starters then vegetables, meats, seafood, bar snacks, cheeses, cured meats and desserts. Being a vegetarian, I appreciated seeing a “vegetable” section. I know that next time I go, I will have a few different plates. Everything on the menu is also very reasonably priced. One of the things I loved most, were the slogans on their drink and food menus.

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We each ordered some tasty drinks and for our appetizer, we opted for a selection of three cheeses from the chef for $16. Our really kind waiter asked us if we wanted bread with the plate and we said yes, not knowing that there would be a surprise in store for us on our bill. Being a pretty big cheese fan, I was expecting a decent cheese selection from the chef. The cheese we did get was good but pretty standard for a cheese platter, nothing too creative or different. The thing that made us really less stoked was to see we had gotten charged $4 for the bread the waiter had offered us. Now, usually if you’re going to offer a cheese platter on your menu, you’d want to offer some type of bread, cracker, jam, fruit, nuts, biscuit or something to go along with it without charging the customer but apparently not at Bar Isabel. Though the bread was really delicious, it’s absurd to think they’d charge a customer especially when ordering a cheese platter. That unfortunately left a bad taste in my mouth… though not enough to never return. I undoubtedly want to give this place a fair chance: get some more drinks, mains and desserts next time.

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All in all, mixed feelings about my first experience at Bar Isabel. Maybe I just wasn’t lucky with the cheese so I definitely want to try a full meal next time because I’ve heard so many amazing things about them. Have you been to Bar Isabel? If so, how was your experience?

Cibo Wine Bar

Last Friday, thanks to a twitter recommendation from Chic Darling. Offner and I tried out the new Cibo Wine Bar that opened up just over two months ago on the corner at King and Brant Street in Toronto. We were looking for some good food to enjoy after a long week at work.

Reservations were super easy through Open Table online. Even if we reserved the afternoon of, there were still some spots available.

Right when we walked in, I noticed that the place had completely transformed from the trashy club that it used to be. The big wall of wine bottles, the dim lighting and the wooden walls gave it a very homey and nice atmosphere. I liked that you could see the kitchen from the dining room, the wood oven and also where all the in-house pasta are made.

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As expected, the wine bar had a pretty big selection of wines. We let our waiter recommend us a wine, something we rarely do but figured it’d be the place to do it. To our surprise, the wine he recommended from Napa Valley was delicious! Though a little pricey for the bottle in our opinion ($65), it was worth it in the end.

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The menu was pretty extensive. They had a variety of Italian food – a full pizza list, pasta that was made in-house, others that that weren’t, a list of salads, soups, fish and also some cheese and charcuterie boards.

We opted for an appetizer each: I took the cheese platter and Offner, the fried calamari. Though his calamari was good it was a little undercooked and too chewy for his liking. I was really excited to try their cheese board as it was recommended to me. The presentation was nice and the portions were good for the price ($17). That being said, the cheese itself wasn’t very original – they served Brie and a form of Mozzarella, basically cheeses that are not only easy to find, but unoriginal. The rest of the cheese was a little better/tastier but being a big cheese connaisseur, sadly I was disappointed with their overall selection.

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For our main course, Offner ordered some shrimp pasta made in-house, which he really enjoyed and myself, the endives salad, which was tasty and reasonably priced. Though the dessert menu looked very appetizing (hello Nutella pizza!!), we were too stuffed to order any.

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The one thing that really stood out and gave the restaurant an edge was what I noticed on my waiter’s feet…

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Yup! Some good ol’ chucks! I think having all the waiters wear chucks gave them a cool laid-back vibe.

Overall, a good experience at Cibo Wine Bar. I think they could improve their cheese selection (Terroni in my opinion still offers a better selection of cheese for the same type of Italian cheese board) and perfect some of their dishes a little more but all in all, we had a pleasant time. The restaurant now also serves brunch on the weekends, something I’d be curious of trying out some time!

 

Concord Grape Spread

Last week we received our first Fresh City Farms local fruit and veggie bag. I challenged myself to use every single item they gave us, even if the bag contained some items I had never cooked with before.

One of these items was Concorde Grapes. I opted to try a grape spread to serve with cheese as an appetizer on the weekend. It’s super easy to make!

All you need is a big handful of grapes, rosemary, olive oil, sugar and salt.

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Rinse the grapes and then place them on a baking sheet. Drizzle 2 teaspoon of olive oil over the grapes. Add a pinch of sea salt and 1 teaspoon of rosemary on the grapes. Also add 1/2 a teaspoon of sugar over the grapes to cut the bitterness.

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Place grapes in the oven and cook at 400F for 15-20 minutes or until grapes burst. Once they’ve cooled off you can place them in a bowl.

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I opted to serve the grape spread with blue cheese on whole wheat toast but they can be served with burrata cheese, compté or any type of cheese you like. The strong taste of blue cheese fit perfectly with the sweetness of the grapes! It was a succulant appetizer to kick off a Saturday night meal. Hope you’ll enjoy 🙂

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Welcome to Miami!

Two weekends ago I was able to spend a few days in Miami. My last visit to Miami dates back to last November but I had only spent 48hrs in this tropical wonderland. Growing up in Quebec, Florida was always a very popular destination for my family in the winter. I think my first ever trip as a baby was to Orlando when I was just a few months old. I’ve done the Orlando/Disney trip a handful of times, stayed in West Palm Beach with my grand-ma, went to Fort Lauderdale a few times but hadn’t spent too much time in Miami before.

So I was really happy to have more quality time there to discover some of the city’s hotspots.

Summer isn’t necessarily the best time of year to head to Miami, that’s when it tends to rain a lot just because it gets so humid and hot. We got lucky with the weather, it only rained one morning out of four and a half days. It was 42+ celsius and sunny the whole time.

We spent most of our time at the beach, the water was SO warm! It is also really clear and the ocean floor is soft and sandy, so you can see all sorts of tropical fish swimming around you. It’s beautiful! Though a little pricey – $50 a day for two chairs and a parasol but you can come and go as you please the entire day, we made sure to protect ourselves from the hot sand and intense sun. There’s really nothing quite like swimming in the ocean. It’s oh so relaxing!!

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I was able to do a little bit of shopping while I was there. My two favorite spots are: Collins Ave. (where you’ll find everything from Zara to LF, to Armani, etc.) and also the pedestrian outdoor shopping area on Lincoln Road.

I’m a huge fan of Art Deco so seeing all the different art deco hotels, buildings, clubs, museums, etc. are so amusing to me. We took the time to visit one of their Art Deco themed museum – the Wolfsonian FIU, located on Washington Ave. They had interesting collections on women and sports, Zeppelins, Art Deco, Architecture, etc. It’s only $7 per person and will take 1-2 hours of your time.

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3 favorite places to eat:

The Dutch – is located in the W Hotel in South Beach. They offered a brilliant fall fixed price menu with one appetizer, one main and a dessert. Everything everyone had there was absolutely to die for! The wine selection was also top notch! The vibe of the place was cozy yet stylish, the staff was knowledgeable and super helpful. I loved my dinner there and can’t wait to go back!

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Otentic – I officially found the best cheese platter in Miami. This small restaurant located on Washington Ave. makes typical French dishes. I loved drinking a Monaco (beer & grenadine drink), their charcuterie boards and salads are also killer. They make a mean chocolate mousse! I love their attention to detail, offering customers a free glass of white wine and tapenade as soon as you walk in. The owner Aurélien (yup, same name as Offner!) is super young and friendly. A must!

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The Forge – Loved eating at this over the top Art Deco inspired restaurant. The atmosphere was young, hip and fun! The styling of the place was unreal. They had a special on Veuve Clicquot champagne the night we went so if you ordered a glass of champagne at the bar, they would serve you unlimited appetizers. Unreal! The food was also heavenly. They had very tasty bread baskets and a fabulous selection of wine. I had the soup and grilled cheese, Offner had the burger and his parents, the biggest steak I’ve ever seen! Their little dessert tray was also yummy. It’s a festive place with loud music so if you’re looking for a quieter spot, this may not be the place for you!

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Now for something completely different, the 11th Street Diner located on Washington and 11th Street is also a superb place to grab some quick breakfast or lunch. It’s the original building that was constructed in 1948 in New Jersey that they moved to Miami in the 1990s.

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A bar to check out:

The Broken Shaker – is located in the hip Freehand Miami hostel. Offner always loves checking out up and coming bars in every city we visit. He had heard of this place because of their original handcrafted drinks made from ingredients, herbs & spices directly taken from the place’s garden. We tasted their savory sweet and spicy homemade punch. They also had a tremendous outdoor garden/patio with a pool, lot’s of fun seating areas, little lights, trees, ping pong tables, etc.

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(photo credit: The LA Times)

Finally, if you’re looking for a cool morning or afternoon excursion, I highly recommend taking a trip to the everglades at the Everglades Safari Park. I’m not one to do too many touristy things on vacation but this was really well organized, informative and fun. For $40, they take you from South Beach (the location of your choice) on a 40min bus ride to the everglade national park. You then go on a 45min airboat tour where they teach you about the different species of snakes, alligators, wildlife, etc. in the national park. That is followed by an informative alligator demonstration (no one wrestles with alligators!) and time to walk around their sanctuary where you can see all sorts of alligators, crocodiles, lizards, etc. They then take you back to your hotel in South Beach. Honestly, well worth the money and super amusing!

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Our time in Miami went by SO fast! With it only being a 3hr flight from Toronto, it’s the perfect long weekend destination! Can’t wait to go back soon!

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Glas Winebar

Last week, my boyfriend and I decided to do a raw food and juice cleanse (read a recap here) after our California adventure. The whole time I was cleansing, all I kept thinking about was cheese. I have a mild severe adoration for cheese and not just any type of cheese – the stronger and the stinkier, the better 🙂

During my cleanse, I asked the twitterverse to recommend the best cheese platter in Toronto. Though I’ve tried many cheese boards in the city, they’re usually always overpriced, aren’t that tasty or original and satisfying. The Terroni cheese platter is probably the best for quality vs. price and you know that you’ll be getting more than just an ounce of cheese. Plus, their accoutrements are always fantastic. However, Toronto cheese platters always fall short of what you can find in Quebec and obviously France. I still can’t get over the fact that you can get four full cheeses in France for 8 Euros and here, they charge $24 for 4oz of cheese! Absurd!

Blame my French blood, but if I’m going to dish out $24 for a cheese board it better be damn good or I’d be better off just making my own (which we do quite often…)

The top recommendation on twitter was Glas Winebar in Leslieville. A quaint little restaurant on Queen East. So I figured I’d give it a shot!

It was really easy to make a reservation for the restaurant, I was able to reserve just by tweeting at them. Though it may not look like much from the outside, the atmosphere in the restaurant is warm, welcoming and cozy. Right when we got there, the chef Danny Pantano came up and introduced himself and thanked us for coming. He explained the current menu, cheese platter, etc. He was very friendly and seemed like a really smart and business-savvy owner. He explained that he opened the restaurant last year after having spent several years cooking in Europe, he wanted to finally have his own place and bring Italian and French cuisine to the city.

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The meal started with a free amuse-bouche: some roasted and seasoned nuts and olives. We both ordered a glass of local Ontario wine.

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The meal continued with a citrus marinated kale salad with wine soaked raisins and parmesan shavings for myself. My boyfriend ordered a beef tartar. Danny carefully selects the products and items on his menu, making sure they’re either all local, sustainable and organic. He also changes his menu very frequently.

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The long awaited cheese board then arrived with a selection of 5 local cheeses. To be honest, the cheeses all had an interesting and original taste, some were smoked, others were garnished with different toppings. For the price, 5 great cheeses for $20, you can’t really go wrong in this city! They were also accompanied by some delicious compote and jam. Yummy!!

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Danny offered us a sweet homemade sorbet with blueberrys on the bottom. It was the perfect way to end the meal!

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We spent more time talking with Danny at the end of our meal, he went around the tables of his restaurant making sure that everyone had enjoyed their meals.

Though it may not be France and strong original cheeses aren’t as readily available in Toronto, I can definitely say that Glas Winebar offered an excellent selection for a great price!

We will definitely be making it back to the east end for another platter someday soon! Thanks Danny and you all for the good recommendation 🙂

Pilot Day 2 #DailyOutfit

Happy Thursday! What a crazy day of shooting it was yesterday! I was completely exhausted after work so I headed to my favorite place for comfort food in the city – when I say comfort food, I don’t mean burgers and fries, I mean a good cheese platter 😉 Terroni has a great and affordable cheese platter with little jams and homemade croutons. I love combining that with their Giuggiolosa salad and a good glass of red wine, the perfect way to end the day!

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Yesterday, the lovely ladies of Uranium in Montreal sent me some goodies from their new fall collection so it was only fitting that I wore some of them for our pilot shoot today. Love love my new “Tripple Thick Ring” and my “Glazing” necklace. The items will be available for purchase on their website very soon! Thanks to Lynne Ryan for the lovely makeup today, she’s the sweetest!

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Uranium White Stripes tee (from the upcoming Fall 2013 collection)

Uranium Glazing necklace (from the upcoming Fall 2013 collection)

Uranium Tripple Thick Ring (from the upcoming Fall 2013 collection)

Zara Batik Mini Skirt (get it here)

Lionette Joplin bracelet (similar one here)

Biko black chainmaille bracelet (get it here)

Forever 21 spiked and rhinestoned bracelet (get it here)

Zara fabric wedge ankle boots (get them here)

 

Cleanse Day 3

Yesterday was my 1st day ever of juicing. I was super anxious when I got up in the morning because I had no idea what to expect, I had no idea how my body was going to react and also how I was going to deal with it mentally. I also woke up feeling super hungry having only eaten raw food the previous night and having spent the night with my stomach in knots.

It’s instructed on the Live Organic Cleanse bottles to drink 6 juices a day, drinking them every two hours and drinking tons of water and tea in between. So I started my day with their Detox bottle. The taste wasn’t so bad but I was having a really hard time finishing it. Though I do drink relatively a lot during a normal day, ingesting all of these liquids was actually pretty difficult for me.

Surpringsly, that juice kept me going for almost three hours. When came time for lunch, I had the Cashew Nut Glow bottle, which tastes pretty sweet and feels filling but is almost too heavy compared to the other juices. I was having a really hard time finishing that bottle as well.

Because two of their bottles were out of stock, including their green juice bottle, I decided to go and buy myself a green juice at the supermarket located in my office building. It may now have been a Live bottle but I made sure that it contained no preservatives, was only real vegetable juice, etc.

I followed that up with a Clean bottle, which tasted really bitter and made my head hurt but I was able to finish that one though.

I spent most of my day at work yesterday going to and from the bathroom, I was feeling like a pregnant lady! Here’s hoping that all the “toxins” in my body are actually being flushed out as supposed to.

Though I wasn’t really feeling that hungry all day, the hardest part was definitely the evening. Psychologically, I love having a nice dinner after a long day at work or going out to a restaurant so only feeding on a juice wasn’t definitely not fulfilling.

I went to bed last night feeling extremely hungry. Though they recommend drinking 6 different juices, I ended up only drinking 4 during the entire day. After 4 juices, I had had enough!

Because I’m doing this cleanse as more of a personal challenge and out of curiosity and not because I wanted to lose weight, I’ve realized that I’m basically just starving myself. Even if I were to lose some weight, I would put it back on as soon as I finish with the cleanse. Though I hope it’ll get rid of the “toxins” in my body, I’m not sure I’ll have too many benefits from this cleanse. It’s a good discipline to adopt for a few days but seeing as I’m someone who eats pretty healthy, I make a lot of my meals myself, eat a lot of fruits and vegetables naturally since I’m a vegetarian and exercise a lot, so I’m not sure cleansing is necessary in my diet. I’m feeling a lot more tired than usual, my muscles are aching and my head hurts. The only positive thing is that I’m feeling a little lighter than usual but who wouldn’t after only ingesting several hundred calories in one full day…

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Today I’m onto day 2 of juice cleansing… We’ll see what the day brings!

PS. Someone bring me a cheese platter stat…. AH! Cravings!!

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Delish eats in Ottawa

Last week I spent a few days in Ottawa for work and decided to try out some of the city’s finest restaurants while I was in the city. My two favorites were:

Zen Kitchen – A local, organic, gourmet vegan restaurant located on Somerset Street. I took my sister, who’s a vegan and she absolutely loved it. It was a small dimly lit restaurant. They served us some free appetizers to start off (a vegan-type springroll), delicious homemade bread and vegan butter. As mains, my sister order the Raw Special, which came with a pumpkin seed burrito fresh guacamole, house salsa, sour cream, sea vegetables, nutmeat, slaw, kale chips and house pickles. For myself, I chose the Sopé, which was a leavened corn tortilla, black beans, exotic mushrooms flambeed with a chipotle-tequila sauce, house salsa, fresh guacamole, lime creme fraiche and spicy rice. Yum! The mains averaged around $20 each, which isn’t that expensive considering that everything is made in-house, local and organic. And for dessert, we both ordered a vegan chocolate-vanilla swirl cheesecake. To die for! The staff was also very nice and the service was quick.

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Murray Street – renown for it’s wine, charcuterie and delicious cheeses. I was first recommended this restaurant by one of my friends and it’s become one of my Ottawa musts each time I go for a visit. Though it is renown for it’s great meats, it also always has succulent vegetarian options. This time around, I ordered the P,B & J, which consists in roasted beets, soy-maple vinaigrette, crumbled La Folie des Bergeres goat’s milk cheese, in-house peanut butter, Agawam grape jelly & brioche ‘sandwich’ croutons. I also treated myself to a smoked blue cheese called the Blue Haze (which is accompanied by pickled onions, beets & carrots, in-house jelly and fresh bread) and for dessert, the Joe Louis – chocolate coated chocolate cake, peanut butter filling, peanut brittle, chocolate peanut sauce. Now, that is what I call “foodporn”! The waiters are always super friendly and chatty and the food really isn’t overpriced.

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So there you have it! My two food recos for your next trip to Ottawa.

Have a lovely Tuesday!

xo