So, it has finally come to this. The final installation in my Canadian food saga on Mastication Monologues (See 1, 2, and 3 here). While the previous chapters had plenty of panache, today’s post will be going out on a very classy note.
Our day started on a very hot note as we made the trek across the city to the famed Casa Loma that was participating in Toronto’s food week a.k.a. Summerlicious. What would be more summerlicious than fine dining in a castle? The storied structure was originally built by Sir Henry Pellatt, a business magnate and loyal military servant to the Queen. Aaron had told me before we visited that he built this mega-mansion for a woman who was supposed to come over to marry him but duped him. Turns out that when we went there, we learned that he built it because he was extremely rich. Go figure. Beautiful as it was inside with plenty of crystal chandeliers, giant halls, and dark wood carpentry, I missed a little bit of that modern air conditioning lovin’ as I proceeded to sweat my brains out. Janice and I made our way out to the garden out back, and we were greeted with a wonderful fountain, lush foliage, and oodles of Asian tourists. We had our wristbands on since we bought tickets ahead of time and on discount, so we were able to skip the long line into the Summerlicious fest like the ballers/shot-callers we naturally are. We had a look over the food they had to offer while hunting for a seat, and it all looked great. After a bit of time, Janice wrangled us a great table in the shade. Aaron and Alyssa met up with us eventually due to a Google Maps error, but Janice and I were then quickly up and ready to run the buffet ragged. We started off with some amazing Italian food. First, there was the prosciutto (pro-shoot-oh or just pro-shoot if you’re a real paisan). The word “prosciutto” comes from the Latin for “before” (pro) and “sucking out” (exsuctus) which then evolved into the modern Italian word “prosciugiare” meaning “to dry thoroughly”. What does all this drying have to do for this heavenly meat? Well, it’s basically a salted, dried, and aged leg of ham that is a pillar of Italian cuisine. At the Summerlicious festival, the chef serving it was using an interesting slicer I’ve never seen before but sped up the cutting process for the slobbering diners lining up for the meat. Janice and I picked up a rolled up slice each, and then next to the prosciutto was another Italian dish I had never tried before called panzanella. It is a salad from the central Italian region of Tuscany, and it is not very in line with the Atkins diet. The reason being is that this salad is based on bread; well, actually stale bread, but that’s neither here nor there. It consists of the bread soaked in the vinaigrette along with tomatoes, onions, and zucchini.
It complimented the salty and savory meat with a light and slightly sour element to the opening plate of our meal. We then moved on to the second plate of the day which was more diverse cuisine-wise. First, I managed to snag a seasoned lamb kabob that was savory and spiced to perfection. The smell alone coming off the grill was driving me crazy. Then I followed that up with an Indian trio of butter chicken, jasmine basmati rice, and aloo gobi. The butter chicken is a very mild dish in terms of Indian food, and it meshed with the rice to be a very filling part of the meal. As for the aloo gobi, it is a traditional and simple Punjabi dish that consists of potatoes (aloo) and cauliflower (gobi). It was different than traditional Indian dishes given that a plethora of them are typically swimming in a pool of sauce. These dry veggies were aglow with a jaundiced yellow hue due to the tumeric and curry powder that was cooked into each piece. It was ok, but not great. The best part of round two was the mushroom cheesy risotto that was being served literally out of a giant wheel of Grana Padano (“grain” in Italian and the adjective for something from the Po River valley in northern Italy). It was a creamy rice dish that had a Parmesan-esque sharpness in every forkful. The final plate to the three ring circus of main courses ended with a vegetable slaw with lime dressing that was like something you could get in a P.F. Changs or slightly more upscale Chinese restaurant especially with the roasted, diced peanuts. The better part of the third plate were the bison sliders with berry mostarda. The bison tasted like a very lean beef with a bit more gamey flavor, but it was kind of drowned out by the berry mostarda that isn’t mustard but rather a traditional Italian condiment made of candied fruit and mustard flavored syrup. We couldn’t put our finger on it if they were cherries or some kind of cranberry, but it strangely went well together as a savory and sweet kind of foodstuff. Thankfully we didn’t eat breakfast because we had room for that sweet sweet dessert. While they were serving three different types of gelato, I will save the ice cream for later in this post. Instead, we chowed down on some white chocolate cannoli and a berry crumble. Cannoli are well known as a quintessential Italian dessert, but in reality they trace their roots back to the Emirate of Sicily, i.e. when the Muslims ruled the island for almost 250 years. In fact, some trace the name to the Arabic word “qanawat“. These little fried tubes of dough were filled by hand right in front of us with sweet mascarpone cheese and garnished with white chocolate shavings. I thought they could have made it better with some milk or dark chocolate shavings to balance out the sweeter cheese, but they were competently made. As for the fruit crumble, I heard that it had strawberry and rhubarb in it which was a first for me. I found it to be like eating a warm strawberry pie with the buttery crumbles, so I don’t know what the rhubarb brought to the equation. The fresh blueberries and strawberries were also a refreshing solution to beating the heat. After that we had an epic trek to one of the best ice cream places in all of Toronto according to Aaron who’s kind of a maestro when it comes to the cold stuff. Ed’s Real Scoop was nothing special on the outside, but clearly on the inside it was happening based on the butt to gut traffic that was occupying the non-A/C interior which was brutal. Still, I knew this place was my jam based on this punny size display, the large selections of ice cream, gelato, and toppings. After chuckling to myself, I made the tough decision by getting a large with creme brulee ice cream and burnt marshmallow with a free topping in the form of Coffee Crisp, a Canadian candy bar that isn’t Stateside. Pricewise, it’s not the cheapest place since my large was around 5 bucks, but I got a ton of ice cream for my money and a free topping! Not only that, but they hand make all of their ice cream and waffles cones on their own machine that is right to your left when you walk into the store. They take their ice cream, gelato, drinks, and confections very seriously, and this care is reflected in the quality from first spoon to last. The creme brulee took me right to the Riviera complete with chunks of the burnt, crunchy sugar topping in each bite while the burnt marshmallow was perfect for a summer night. All I was missing was a bonfire and some graham crackers to make some s’mores. The Coffee Crisp was like a flaky wafer coated in milk chocolate that created that s’more effect. Janice got a cinnamon cheesecake milkshake, and it was a slurptacular way to beat the heat as we walked along Toronto’s beachfront. After walking for what seemed forever, we made it to Aaron’s neighborhood in the Scarborough area. We hit up Casa di Giorgio Ristorante. By this point, we were ready to devour some food, and this Italian eatery fit the bill. The ladies got different types of pasta, so naturally I didn’t eat it. Janice seemed happy with her tortellini alla crema ($16.95) which were cheese stuffed shells with a white cream sauce. I opted for pizza instead. They have so many great choices, but I picked the Veranzano ($16.95). It had everything I love: meat, cheese, and veggies. The goat cheese and salty prosciutto balanced the fresh arugula and mild, roasted red peppers. Based on my experience and the others’ plates, it was a good Italian restaurant if you’re looking for simple but well made food. Aaron and Alyssa hadn’t even been there before, and they live there. So it was a great hidden find and a molto bene note to end our stay in TO with our good friends and even better guests. Thanks for everything guys, and see you on the open road!