If you’re flying to Canada, there’s a chance you’ll be changing in Toronto Pearson International Airport, the busiest airport in the country. If you’re flying through Terminal 1, there appear to be a wide variety of restaurants; there are lots of new ones since I last went through there. In Terminal 3, there are fewer choices (always a Tim Horton’s though!) but I managed to find a good place to dine on my recent stopovers there. Caplansky’s Deli – a branch of a popular Toronto diner.

My first stopover coincided with dinnertime and with many hours to kill, I got comfy at a large table by the window and ordered myself a feast. One smoked meat sandwich, with latkes substituting the usual fries, and a side house salad. While the salad was a little too heavily dressed, the croutons did add texture and crunch. The smoked meat was fantastic, as were the latkes. A selection of their own deli mustards also kept me entertained.

A long layover means a proper fill up! Excellent smoked meat and latkes at Caplansky's Deli.

My second stopover was at breakfast time and I was ravenous. I ordered a smoked meat hash (with potato and onion) and over-easy eggs instead of the usual sunny side up. This wasn’t too bad and I was tickled by the addition of a few bites of fresh fruit. With ketchup and mustard, it was some incredibly comforting eating. 

This was breakfast at Caplansky's Deli at Toronto Pearson when I flew from Québec to Vancouver. Smoked meat hash!

I wish all airports had diners! And I already know what I want to try the next time I’m in Toronto – their fried chicken and their smoked meat knish or their fried salami for breakfast!

I wanted poutine, that glorious (or possibly gruesome, if you’ve never had it, I suppose) combination of French fries, cheese curds and gravy, while I was in Canada; yes, I know that poutine is Quebecois but I also know that it’s available everywhere in the country. Growing up in Vancouver, even Burger King offered it. When Renée heard of my need, she directed me to Gilead Café, known throughout the city to serve a very good, but modern, poutine. We were staying a stone’s throw from the Distillery District in Toronto and Gilead Café is a stone’s throw from that, making the café just two stones’ throws from us; yes, I could drag my colleagues there one morning.

I knew nothing about the cafe and even less so about Jamie Kennedy, the chef-owner. From what I can gather online, he’s quite a star chef in Toronto and he cares very much about where all the food he uses is sourced. I knew nothing of this when we entered Gilead Café for brunch that Sunday morning. The space is big and bright and I loved the walls lined with homemade preserves. Do come relatively early as we did and get seated immediately – there was a small queue as we were eating.

Three of us opted for the Hash with Sunny Side Up Eggs and Greens. The hash changes on a regular basis and the chalkboard indicated that today’s was going to be with succotash and bacon. Large chunks of potato were fried together with the corn and bacon mixture and served in a piping hot cast iron frying pan. It was a delicious start to the morning but I have a small quibble – I just wished the potatoes were cubed smaller, increasing the amount of fried surface area.

Hash with Sunny Side Up Eggs and Greens

One colleague ordered the Howdy Pard’ner, an open faced Sloppy Joe with a poached egg served with fries. He seemed pleased with it.

Howdy Pard'ner

And of course, the main reason I was there, a Poutine which I ordered for the table. A bowlful of well-browned fries (the way I like it) came out topped with cheese and the same meat topping as in the Howdy Pard’ner (actually they had layered the ingredients, ensuring that you always get something good with your fries). A big dollop of sour cream topped it all. It wasn’t a classic poutine by any means but it was certainly very good.

Poutine

As you can see from this Flickr search, the toppings seem to change regularly. The pork confit version looks amazing.

I couldn’t leave without trying one of their sweets and so bought a little butter tart to split between the four of us. It really was a very small one and so divvying it up did look a bit silly but I’m glad of just partaking in a single bite – it was ludicrously sweet.

Butter Tart

I’ve heard good things about their French toast for dessert though so that might be something to try if you’re there. The place is open for breakfast and lunch and turns into a bistro at night for dinner.

Gilead Café
4 Gilead Pl
Toronto, ON
M5A 3C9

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And that ends my short roundup of Toronto eats – as usual, all my photos of my trip can be found in this Flickr photoset. It was a fun trip – apart from the conference I attended, I also went up the CN Tower, visited Niagara Falls (not to be missed!), and was privileged to be invited to dinner at Shayma’s (the beautiful Shayma of The Spice Spoon). And of course, the St Lawrence Market is not to be missed, especially on a Saturday when the farmers all set up stands too. I enjoyed a delicious peameal bacon sandwich from Carousel Bakery, bought mustard from Kozliks, and shared a gorgeous wild blueberry strudel from Oodles of Strudels. Toronto is yummy.

While in Toronto, I had also arranged to meet Renée, whom I’ve known on Flickr for ages. If it was anyone who’d know where was best to eat in the city, it would be the very knowledgeable Renée! She arranged for us to dine one night at Acadia, a relatively new restaurant where chef Matt Blondin concocts dishes inspired by Acadian and Lowcountry cuisine. She had been often and raved about the food. I certainly didn’t know much about both cuisines and was intrigued and excited.

I’d already looked at the menu online prior to our meeting but I was still none the wiser as to what to eat there. I needn’t have worried as the chef had planned for us all (Renée’s friend Gabe also joined us) to have a tasting menu that night.

So here we go through the tasting menu – most of the dishes were smaller versions of those available on their a la carte menu but some were experiments, I think. Pickles to start.

Pickles

Acadia’s Cornbread – sweet potato butter. This was some delicious cornbread but I was careful not to fill up on it.

Acadia's Cornbread

Crab with basil and cucumber. This was a light, delicate dish chock full of chunks of crab meat.

Crab with Cucumber

Cornmeal Dusted Halibut Cheeks – pickled prawn, celery & sugarcane chow chow, mirlitons, buttermilk. A dish with a good balance of strong and gentle flavours (the prawn cake slice was a good kind of strong). I still have no idea what mirlitons are; I need to Google this.

Cornmeal Dusted Halibut Cheeks

Northumberland Strait Scallops – chicken crackling, parmesan, pickled watermelon rind, basil. This was probably my favourite dish of the night. Scallops, chicken crackling…what’s there not to like?

Northumberland Strait Scallops

Yarmouth Albacore – blackened spices, chickpea & celery maque-choux, brown butter hollandaise, tarragon. I also loved this dish with its spices and brown butter pepping up the fish.

Yarmouth Albacore

Dirty Rice Balls – red pepper honey. Unfortunately, I did fill up on these glorious deep fried spheres of a spiced rice and meat mixture.

Dirty Rice Balls

Red Grouper / Anson Mills Grits & Shrimp – chlorophyll puree, parsley. Two dishes on the a la carte menu were combined for this dish. While the fish was tasty enough, it was the shrimp and grits ‘sauce’ that was outstanding. Renée suggested that we order it from the a la carte menu if we were still hungry at the end…but the end was still yet to come…

Red Grouper / Anson Mills Grits & Shrimp

Pork Belly – wrapped in egg. This was my least favourite dish of the night, probably a surprise if you knew my penchant for pork belly. This one was a bit dry and quite salty.

Pork Belly in Egg

Stuffed Quail – boudin, cane syrup glaze, Orleans mustard, benne seed brittle, collard greens. We were presented with a full sized order of this for the table to share. The sweetness of the glaze and brittle was so good with the richness of the boudin and rice stuffed quail.

Stuffed Quail

Nagano Farms Pork Ribs – sorghum salad, sarsaparilla root, tobacco leeks, puffed amaranth. Sticky, moreish ribs…mmm.

Nagano Farms Pork Ribs

Black Angus Flat Iron – heavily roasted vegetables, black garlic, dill emulsion. It was a great piece of meat but I felt the dill overpowered the flavour of the meat; I found myself scraping off most of the dill sauce.

Black Angus Flat Iron

Sweet Potato Pie – molasses & cereal milk ice cream. By this point, I was already stuffed and didn’t manage more than half the pie. I thought it too sweet (I usually think this of many North American sweets) but loved the cereal milk ice cream that came with it (it tasted of my childhood favourite Corn Pops).

Sweet Potato Pie

I may have held my breath when the bill arrived but the damage was a much-lower-than-expected $69 each for the tasting menu. They don’t have this menu available everyday and I’m aware that this was offered specially for us that day but you could try to call ahead and arrange for it. Otherwise, you won’t go too badly wrong with the items from the daily menu; their cocktail menu is also quite interesting and unique too. Service was excellent with the waiters taking pains to explain every dish with great care; I noticed that every table got this level of attention.Definitely recommended for something quite unique to Toronto.

Acadia
50C Clinton St.
Toronto, ON
M6G 2Y3

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F’Amelia had only been open for about two weeks when I met the lovely Yasmin of le sauce there for dinner one night. I had arrived early, hoping to see Cabbagetown but all the shops in the area closed before six; with nothing else to do, I turned up to the restaurant and snagged the last seat at the bar to wait quite comfortably until Yasmin turned up.

After we were seated, we took ages over the menu, both of us quite indecisive over everything on the Northern Italian menu. We finally decided on a starter, a pizza and two small portions of pasta.

Our starter was Vickie’s Heirloom Tomato Panzanella ($12) – a Tuscan-style tomato and bread salad. These must have been the last tomatoes of the season but they were still fantastic tossed with caramelised onions and parmesan in a light dressing. And their homemade croutons….mmm….

Vickie's Heirloom Tomato Panzanella

Our pizza came, like the others, out of a large woodburning oven in the middle of the restaurant. We were both drawn to the Diavola ($15) – Crushed San Marzano tomato, fior di latte, spicy soppressata, fresh red hot chili pepper, basil, extra virgin olive oil – because of the addition of the chilli!

Diavola

It was an excellent pizza too.

I thought their pastas were weaker than their pizzas. A Maltagliati ($15, for a small portion) with octopus, spicy tomato, preserved lemon and arugula was alright but I couldn’t taste any of the lemon and the pasta sheets stuck together in clumps. The octopus was wonderfully tender but still, the dish just didn’t work.

Maltagliati with Octopus, Spicy Tomato, Preserved Lemon and Arugula

Their famous Gnocchi ($16) with porcini mushrooms and in-house cured Pancetta and parsley was good with its pillowly soft potato dumplings but needed something….perhaps something acidic to cut through the richness. I’m still glad I tried them both though.

Gnocchi with Porcini Mushrooms and In-house Cured Pancetta and Parsley

Perhaps we didn’t really need the desserts (I was about to burst after them) but we couldn’t leave without trying them. Their Tiramisu ($8) was excellent, all light and creamy, and it was a giant portion. Bizarrely, our waitress kept insisting that all their desserts were very light and cream- and butter-free. Right…

Tiramisu

Their Rum and Ginger Apple Toffee Cake ($8) with vanilla and honey bee pollen ice cream was good but its sticky toffeeness was little too heavy after all the food we’d consumed.

Rum and Ginger Apple Toffee Cake

I’ve heard good things about their tagliatelle with rabbit ragu so that should possibly be on your list if you visit. There are, of course, quite a few good Italian restaurants in Toronto but I can certainly recommend this one for its pizzas.

F’Amelia
12 Amelia Street
Toronto, ON
M4X 1E1

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It was absolutely pouring that night in Toronto when we poured out of the taxi in front of what we hoped was The Black Hoof (the shopfront only had the word ‘charcuterie’ on its awning). I had dragged my colleagues there after reading positive reviews of this restaurant famed for its meats but I was feeling particularly nervous as they don’t accept reservations and gosh, would we have to queue in the rain? Luckily, we were at the correct restaurant and yes, we just managed to get the last table for four.

The chalkboard menu up on the wall showed their dedication to nose to tail eating. We selected a variety of dishes to sample what the restaurant with its tiny open kitchen could do.

The platter of House cured meats ($18) came out first and we paired this with a large order of their fine bread ($4). Pork, beef, lamb, and venison were all represented and the flavours on the platter were arranged like a rainbow from the mild and silky to the spicy and pungent.

House Cured Meats

The Roasted bone marrow ($9) came out looking like something out of the Flintstones. Cut lengthwise, there was no barrier to the luscious marrow itself and we spread it on toast along with the accompanying salt and fantastically garlicky chimichurri.

Roasted Bone Marrow

The Pork carnitas tacos ($14.5 for 4) were served with lime and puffs of fried pork rind. They were delicious bites of spiced pork and we jazzed them up with some hot sauce provided.

Pork Carnitas Tacos

The Pierogies ($13) were filled with potato, cheese and pork belly and served with a lemon butter sauce. Four to an order seemed a little small though for the price.

Pierogies

Tongue on brioche ($14) turned out to be a tongue sandwich – tender shaved tongue, brioche, tarragon mayo, cornichons and pickled celery and violet mustard. I’m now rather sold on tongue if it were always to be served like this!

Tongue on Brioche

We were already getting full and started thinking of sweets. There was only one Dessert ($10) on offer though and that was a cinnamon pannacotta with apple, whisky jelly, raisins and granola. We ordered two for the table and what came out were large Le Parfait jars with the pannacotta inside. It was excellent with the crunch of the granola and apple, chewiness of the raisins and creaminess of the pannacotta.

Dessert

And the bill? The total for the four of us was about $120 (with a few beers but not including tip), a perfectly reasonable bill for the quality of food we consumed. It might be of interest to note that we visited not long after the original head chef Grant van Gameren parted ways with The Black Hoof and while I have no idea how the food when he was there might compare, I was impressed with what we were served. Shame we didn’t have a chance to return but there were other places to try in Toronto!

Remember – no bookings allowed and they’re closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

The Black Hoof
928 Dundas St W
Toronto, ON
M6J 1W3

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